Diet for a Small Planet (20th Anniversary Edition)
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127 of 152 people found the following review helpful
In the early 1970s, I left my abusive husband, took my three kids and resumed my education (I was a high school dropout age 28 with three kids). Those were the days of "Earth shoes" that tilted your body into a more upright position, and the "discovery" of yogurt and acid rain. Although I did not realize it at the time, it was the beginning of the renewal of the Woman's movement.
My new friends included a small group of women in their late twenties and early thirties who had left abusive husbands, had small children, and were in the midst of gaining a new awareness that later on took on the sobriquet, "consciousness raising." Among other tools we acquired a number of books including, THE WOMEN'S ROOM and DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET.
DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET is a gem, not because it contains wonderful recipes (it doesn't) but because when you read it, you can get an inside view of a subculture that has disappeared. Sometimes I think the happiest moments of my life occurred in those days. I had no money, but I was in college--a life long dream my mother had and never realized--and with friends who helped me to feel good about myself for the first time in my life. DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET nourished this feeling. DIET explained how the real food chain worked and that everything we ate affected some other life form. We learned that we could eat and hurt others less, and save a few bucks because the meals were cheap.
My kids still laugh at some of the meals I served them based on the recipes in DIET. Over the years, we've had many discussions about which food was worst. They say the "yogurt and barly soup" wins hands down. This book explains how to make awful food and many better veggie books are on the market. However, you won't buy this book for the recipes, you'll buy it for it's insight. Laughing at DIET because it is naive is laughing at the Wright Brothers because they didn't build and fly a Concorde. Read DIET with an unbiased eye and understand it was the food bible for a group of young American women who were "backward" because their society wanted it that way, but believed they could become educated and help change the world for the better--and in spite of all the recent sorrow, the world for women and children is better than it was 30 years ago. PS. I don't know why the advertising says this is a 20th anniversary edition. A copy of this book was floating around 30 years ago. Could it have been printed by the "underground" press??
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2005
I first picked up this book in a second-hand store in 1985...it was the 1975 edition, which I still have, even though I bought the edition Ms. Lappe put out in 1985 sometime later. When I began reading, I was astonished at all that I didn't know, and, unlike some other reviewers here, I found it interesting, even compelling and certainly consciousness-raising. My husband and I had spent the first six years of our marriage eating anything and everything, getting fat and feeling lousy. Something had to give. Once I understood the theory of protein complementarity, which I subsequently learned not to take deadly seriously, and then had acquired some very large glass jars and visited my first natural foods co-op, our lives changed dramatically. Being a gourmet cook, I did have to make some adjustments, as Ms. Lappe uses an extremely light hand with seasonings, but her research was sound and her recipes gave me the "push" I needed to change the way I shopped and cooked and the way we and our toddlers were eating. Twenty years later, I still use the book, as well as another classic, Laurel's Kitchen, and our family consists of four healthy, lean lacto-ovo vegetarian adults. I still have a fond recollection of my early days with my now tattered, rubber-banded copy of Diet for a Small Planet and a sense of gratitude for Ms. Lappe's wake up call which endures today.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2006
I encountered this book in my mom's cookbook collection in the early 80's. I was particularly drawn to the Peanut Butter Balls recipe... I was an experimental young "tween" and decided to try it. Today I got an unbelievable craving for these treats and decided to look online to see if this book still existed so I could find the recipe. I had to laugh at the reviews of this book... that the recipes tasted "earthy" and such. This Peanut Butter Balls recipe is a winner! If you get the book, you must try it! Happy to hear the book had a much larger purpose without me knowing it at the tender age of 13. I'll consider getting a copy as these are issues I'm concerned about today. Don't think I'll be trying the yogurt barley soup recipe, however... ;)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I want to defend the recipes, after several reviewers have attacked them. I'm not saying EVERYTHING in the cookbook is scrumptious, but then again, I wouldn't say that of ANY cookbook I've ever seen. This is probably the most practical book for someone to own when they're beginning to try to cook vegetarian meals, either as an exclusive diet or as an occasional alternative to meat. Sure, Deborah Madison's VEGETARIAN COOKING FOR EVERYONE and the ubiquitous MOOSEWOOD COOKBOOK are more gourmet, but that's not an unmixed blessing for a beginning cook (or a beginning vegetarian). DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET has a variety of recipes contributed by different cooks with a variety of skill levels and tastes. Some of them are blessedly easy and quite delicious, e.g., lentil pastitsio, and Roman red beans and rice, both of which I've served at parties and seen devoured enthusiastically by non-vegetarians. It also suggests ways of sneaking some protein into unexpected places like breads and cakes--an invaluable skill for any parent of a finicky toddler, vegetarian or not. Unlike the more gourmet vegetarian cookbooks, DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET doesn't assume that you're starting with fresh heirloom vegetables from farmer's markets, gourmet cheeses, and a fully equipped chef's kitchen where you grind your own spices. If you want to make a decent meatless meal with whatever's marked down this week at the supermarket, this is your guide. Unlike the more gourmet vegetarian cookbooks I sometimes use, DIET has nutritional information to help you plan a meal that you know isn't shortchanging your family on protein. All in all, I think this is an essential book for beginners in vegetarian cooking.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2006
This book provides a lot of important fundamental information about the food industry and how our greedy lifestyle negatively affects people around the world and even in our own backyards. There is a good dose of statistics and information here and a lot of it is very interesting but you can't help but wonder what kinds of changes have come across in the 20 or so years since these stats were published. The author seems to make a lot of clarifications and alterations to her original publishing, which makes this book seem a little pointless at times. I guess this book made a big impact in the food industry and to public awareness so it's worth reading about reactions to the book and stories from the author's own experience and how the book changed her life as well, but for someone who wants to get a better idea of how the world is working right now and wants more up to date information, I'm sure there are better resources out there now.

Extra star for the recipe section, which takes up nearly half the book. There are some great ideas in there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is the 20th anniversary re-do of a highly influential book from 1971. DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET, although not a huge book, manages to be a treatise on feeding the world sanely, a guide to nutrition with few or no animal products, and a cookbook all in one. If you've ever wondered about "protein complementarity" this book will show you how to achieve it. If you've ever questioned the wisdom of a federal government that subsidizes the growing of yellow corn to feed cattle to provide beef when grass will do, this offers insight (although there are newer books such as THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA that offer a more up-to-date take). SMALL PLANET is also a helpful guide to vegan (occasionally ovo-lacto-vegetarian) cooking, although that segment is also a little out-of-date, with frequent mention of tofu but none of quinoa, for example. Because of its overall usefulness, though, only the fact that the basic text is over 40 years old keeps me from giving it five stars.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 1999
This is one very informed lady. She has been studying food for decades, and has a mountain on interesting (scary really) facts (statistics, not opinions) to share. Granted, she promotes vegitarianism, but she does not try to force it down your throat. This book is not a over passionate rally-the-troops book, it is a point by point factual account of that state of the world food situation. If you are or want to be a vegitarian, definitely buy this book. Even if you are just an interested observer, still buy it. You will be amazed at the little known facts presented here.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2007
Strictly from an "efficiency" standpoint, I would rather learn about combining my proteins from this book, eat vegetarian, and feel as if I'm doing something about acres and acres a day being lost in the Amazon basin, to provide cattle grazing land to feed the world's beef habits. It takes I think it's 20 acres of land to provide meat protein, and one acre of land to provide the same amount of plant-based protein. Sure, mankind can figure out how to mechanize the Earth into feeding everyone on the planet, but obviously now the Earth is suffering under the strain. Diet For A Small Planet's heart was in the right place, way back in the 70's when I bought it new. Long live vegetarianism, protein-combining (yes, it's important but not as critical as we thought before), and getting off the top of the food chain!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2014
Diet for a Small Planet is a good introduction to vegetarianism. It is not an excellent introduction. Frances Moore Lappe begins her book with a political polemic arguing that Americans who eat lots of meat contribute to hunger in the third world. She points out that it takes 16 pounds of grain and soy to produce one pound of beef, and 6 pounds of grain and soy to produce one pound of pork.

If Americans ate the grain and soy, instead of feeding it to the animals and eating them, American farmers would produce a huge food surplus. Lappe would like for this surplus to be given free of charge to the hungry billions of Latin America and Africa.

I am enough of a child of the 1960’s for that argument to appeal to me, at least mildly. Most Americans will find it arrant nonsense. This may cause them to reject the rest of the book. This is unfortunate, because the book does provide valuable information. Vegetarianism has other benefits in addition to the purely altruistic.

One important concept introduced in this book is that of net protein utilization. The human body requires eight amino acids. They must be in the right proportion. If one of the eight is thirty percent short of that proportion, only thirty percent of the protein can be utilized. The rest is transformed to carbohydrate.

For example, I have on my desk a loaf of whole wheat bread. According to “Nutrition Facts” this loaf has 18 servings. Each serving has 4 grams of protein. Thus, the loaf has approximately 72 grams of protein. I also have a quart of skim milk. This quart has 4 servings. Each serving has 8 grams of protein. Thus the quart has approximately 32 grams of protein.

However, the net protein utilization of whole wheat is 60 percent. The net protein utilization of skim milk is 82 percent. Thus, from the loaf of whole wheat bread my body can utilize about 43 grams of protein. From the quart of skim milk my body can utilize about 26 grams of protein.

In this example, we can see that the net protein utilization of the animal protein in skim milk is much higher than the net protein utilization of the plant protein in whole wheat bread. That is the way it is with animal and plant protein. However, by mixing different kinds of protein we can increase the net protein utilization of protein in a meal. This is called “protein complementarity.”

For example, grains are short in the amino acid called lysine. Animal protein is high in lysine. By mixing grains with a small amount of animal protein we can increase the net protein utilization of both.

While grain is low in lysine, it is high in the amino acid called methionine. Beans are high in lysine, but low in methionine. By mixing grains and beans we can increase the net protein utilization of both.

Here Frances Moore Lappe is a bit confusing. She refers to “sulphur containing amino acids.” Of the four sulphur containing amino acids methionine is the most important.

Although the chemistry to amino acids has only been discovered comparatively recently, for thousands of years people have known that it was beneficial to mix the protein in different kinds of foods. In traditional diets animal protein is not the main course; it is a condiment added to a primarily grain diet. Orientals combine rice with tofu made from soy beans, or small amounts of meat, fish, or poultry. Italians mix pasta with small amounts of cheese or meat. From the American Indians we get succotash. This combines lima beans and corn. From New England we get baked beans and brown bread. Mexican food emphasizes corn, beans, and rice. East Indian food emphasizes bread, rice, chick peas, and lentils. Mid Eastern food emphasizes ground wheat, chick peas, broad beans, and lentils. Bread is called “the staff of life.”

An additional objection I have to Diet for a Small Planet is that Frances Moore Lappe insufficiently emphasizes the need for vitamin B 12 supplementation if one consumes no animal protein at all. Vitamin B 12 is the only nutrient that is not found in plant foods. Fortunately, vitamin B 12 pills are easy to find in drug stores, and inexpensive.

There are a number of advantages in a vegetarian diet. It can be less expensive. If done properly it is more healthful. It is low in cholesterol and saturated fat, and high in fiber. Ever since I was a child I have worried about the cruelty involved in killing and eating animals.

Americans are unlikely to substantially increase food aid to the third world. Nevertheless, if we got more of our protein needs from plant sources we would be healthier.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2001
I purchased this book after having seen it recommended by the late, great, natural bodybuilder Steve Reeves in his book "Building the Classic Physique: The Natural Way". I haven't read most of Lappé's book because I'm an omnivore, and I continue to eat meat [although no veal, little pork and beef]. However, one of her book's appendices is excellent for gaining insight into how to combine vegetable protein sources to get a "complete protein" profile that mimics animal protein sources. Worth it for this information alone.
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