June 9, 2008

The Oscars of Food

The 2008 James Beard Awards have been announced.  The rewards reflect the broader trends moving through the food world these days - an emphasis on local production, high-quality "real" ingredients, whole grains, sustainability and a vision of food that takes seriously its place (and its place of importance) within systems large and small, local and global.  Winner's that I've brushed up against lately:

Peter Reinhart won again in the Baking and Dessert category for Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor.  Like his previous winner, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, this is a must have for any baker - hugely informative, great recipes, solid go-to breads as well as more challenging novelties.  Having said that I haven't opened it nearly as much as I have Bread Baker's Apprentice.  Using Apprentice we've made breads that rank in our "best breads we've ever eaten" category but its been more hit and miss with Whole Grain, which I think is simply an indication of a steeper learning curve for working (and eating) with whole grains than a flaw in the book.  

Barbara Kingsolver won in the Writing on Food category for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.  My wife read it and I thumbed through it and we both came to the same conclusion - a useful "beginners" book for those who are becoming interested in local, sustainable food production and consumption but unless you are already on board you'll probably be turned off by her tone and shrillness.  Kingsolver is a good writer and I think her editor did her a disservice by not steering her in a more broadly accessible direction.

The Victory Garden won for Television Food Segment, National or Local - I remember seeing this as a kid and would have bet that it wasn't even on anymore.  Not only are they still around but they have a podcast.

The Splendid Table won again for Radio Food Show.

Undoubtedly with an eye on the current global food crisis, Frances Moore Lappe won the Humanitarian Award.  I've mentioned Frances before in the context of her book World Hunger: 12 Myths, The Food First Institute and the Small Planet Institute.  A very worthy recipient.


Jennifer said...

I agree about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I was so disappointed, because I really wanted a book that informative and easy to read that I could recommend to friends who were interested in the local/sustainable movement, but this one isn't it. Too preachy and self-righteous, which is a shame.

A student of mine lent me Diet for Small Planet, which I've only thumbed through. Have you read it?

j said...

I've never read the whole thing and I've never done enough research on the whole "protein combination" deal to know if its legitimate or not. If nothing else it seemed like one of those helpful corrective books that might push things more towards the center, towards a diet of moderation, than a diet that a lot of people would embrace fully, but it seemed like a good resource for vegetarians or those inclined in that direction. There was an updated version she did with her daughter a while back (Hopes Edge or something like that) that I've never looked through but which may be more in tune with current trends.

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