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Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food Paperback – June 23, 2015
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“Part Fast Food Nation, part Eat Pray Love, it’s perfect for a flight or train ride.” (Self)
“Unprocessed is a beautifully written and refreshingly honest look at the sticky business of making ethical and responsible food choices in our current food landscape.” (Bon Appétit)
“In grappling with these personal, day-to-day decisions, Kimble makes a thoughtful contribution to the greater conversation about how we go about changing the food system.” (Sierra Club)
“In Megan’s thorough and lively search for a diet of real food, she delivers an important lesson in the processes that have led us away from our old nourishing ways. A meaningful and timely tale.” (Tamar Adler, author of An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace and contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine)
“An important book for all of us who live and breathe and eat in America. I thought I knew this material, but I couldn’t put the book down and I came away from it recharged and better informed . . . fresh and smart, but also wise.” (Deborah Madison, author of Vegetable Literacy and The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
“Megan Kimble is the freshest voice in literary food writing since Dan Barber and Tamar Adler . . a stunning debut by a perceptive observer of how food systems actually work . . . in disarmingly graceful prose that will stay in your memory for years to come.” (Gary Paul Nabhan, author of the award-winning Growing Food in a Hotter Drier Land and Coming Home to Eat)
“Unprocessed should be required reading for every American eater. In this engrossing tale, Kimble lets us tag along as she processes our flawed food system and unprocesses her kitchen. Kimble’s candor and can-do spirit empower and inspire.” (Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland)
“I love how Megan effortlessly intertwines her story with all that she learned about the food we eat and how it’s processed . . . a refreshingly simple approach on where to draw the line.” (Lisa Leake, #1 New York Times bestselling author of 100 Days of Real Food)
“A very personal and honest report of her year-long effort . . . and many practical tips for improving our ways of eating without spending a fortune. An engaging read with valuable information.” (Andrew Weil, M.D., bestselling author of True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure)
“[Megan Kimble]...has covered poverty and food justice issues, informal food economies, food bank innovations, and roadside stands with equal insight and grace... this extraordinary writer...has taken risks wherever she has gone, and created gems along the way.” (Gary Paul Nabhan, PhD., W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems, University of Arizona, The New York Times-contributor and author of 12 food history and culture books)
From the Back Cover
Megan Kimble was a twenty-six-year-old living in a small apartment without even a garden plot to her name. But she knew that she cared about where her food came from, how it was made, and what it did to her body—so she decided to go an entire year without eating processed foods. Unprocessed is the narrative of Megan's extraordinary year, in which she milled wheat, extracted salt from the sea, milked a goat, slaughtered a sheep, and more—all while she was a busy, broke city-dweller.
What makes a food processed? The answer to that question went far beyond cutting out snacks and sodas, and led to a fascinating journey through America's food system, past and present. Megan learned how wheat became white, how fresh produce was globalized, and how animals were industrialized. But she also discovered that in daily life—conjuring meals while balancing a job, social life, and even dating—our edible futures are inextricably tied to gender and economy, politics and money, work and play.
Backed by extensive research and wide-ranging interviews, and including tips on how to ditch processed food and transition to a real-food lifestyle, Unprocessed offers provocative insights not only on the process of food but also the processes that shape our habits, communities, and day-to-day lives.
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What I had really hoped for, based on the title, was more first-hand accounts of the experience of eating unprocessed for an entire year. Even for someone like me, whose food philosophy probably aligns pretty closely with the author's, I can't imagine doing this for a month let alone an entire year. I wanted to understand more about the challenges and practicalities of doing this, particularly on a limited budget. For example, did it take more time to cook than before she started the project? Seems like it must have. If yes, how did she find the extra time? What did she do after a long, hard day at work when the last thing she wanted to do was cook? Did she have any uncontrollable cravings for junk food? She says in the last chapter that she spent 27% of her income over the year on food. I'm all for spending more for quality food and to support the people who produce it, but that's a staggering sum to spend on food when you're not making much to begin with. I wonder how much she was spending before and what financial sacrifices, if any, she had to make to spend such a significant sum on food. Only the chapter on hunger really begins to touch on the issues of affordability, but not in great depth. And other questions like those I've mentioned, if they're addressed at all, felt like fleeting references. I wanted to come away from this book understanding how an average person, with all the challenges of modern life, could really make something like this work. Or at least move closer to it. Instead, I came away thinking that the author was not average at all. I had the distinct impression that this project was not far removed from how she had been living before. Like a person that drinks 1% milk their entire life who decides to switch to skim, it might taste a bit watery for a week or two, but it's not that big a deal. It seems to me that this was how it was for the author. Although she hints at struggles and challenges, you see little evidence of them and get few recommendations for how to address them if your transition is not quite so painless.
At the end of the day, the book was pleasant enough; I just think there were some missed opportunities. It's easy to find books that discuss the downsides of industrial agriculture and processed foods and the benefits of a whole foods diet and organics. I can't say that I've seen one that presents a realistic portrait of how actual people with limited time and resources follow such a diet on a daily basis and make it tasty at the same time. I really wished this book would have been more of the latter than the former. That said, I'd probably read another book by this author.