In Food Matters: A Guide to Conscience Eating, Mark Bittman, the bestselling author of How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian proposes a plan to help everyday Americans eat responsibly. Food Matters “calls attention to the way government policy, big business marketing and global economics influence what we put on our tables. With more than 75 recipes that are as good for the planet as they are for your weight and your health.”
In Food Matters, Mark Bittman suggests that by making small, relatively easy changes to our diet, we can improve our personal, economic and environmental health. Do you agree? If so, why? If not, why not?
On page 68, Bittman states, “Here’s the summary: Eat less meat, and fewer animal products in general… Eat fewer refined carbohydrates… and junk food… Eat far more vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains.” Is this lifestyle change realistic for you? For the average North American? Are some suggestions more practical than others? Why?
Do you agree that Bittman’s thesis (as stated in Question 1) creates a healthier and more sustainable world? If so, how? If not, why not?
Is changing our eating habits the best way to improve our health and/or environment? If not, what alternatives are available?
What is the relationship between Food Matters and other contemporary food-conscience arguments (e.g. Michael Pollan’s Omnivores Dilemma or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals)?
Many of us are accustomed to eating meat on special occasions, especially during Jewish holidays. While Bittman’s argument doesn’t rule out this custom, he does challenge us to rethink our food choices. Would rethinking the food we serve change the festival celebration? Would your family or synagogue choose non-meat alternatives?
Genesis 1:29-30 states, “And God said, ‘Look, I have given you all the seed-bearing plants on the face of the earth, and every tree that has in its seed-bearing fruit – these are yours to eat. And to every land animal, and to every bird in the sky, and to all that creeps on the earth in which there is the breath of life, I [give] all green vegetation for food.” How does Bittman’s argument relate to this Biblical passage? Does it support or contradict it?
Over half the book consists of recipes. In what ways do the recipes further Bittman’s thesis?
Does Food Matters inspire you to change your behavior? If so, how? If not, why not?
Incorporate dialogue into your Holiday celebration: From Tu B’Shevat Seders to Sukkot, you can integrate readings, recipes or discussions about ethical and healthy consumption into your celebration.
Preach what you practice! Share information about ethical and healthy consumption in congregational sermons, newsletters, etc. Encourage others to submit articles and share recipes.
Learn about the history of Biblical eating and kashrut: Structure a class, text study or discussion on the evolution of kashrut. Examine how healthy and socially responsible eating relates to kashrut.
Revisit yoursynagogue food policy: Revisit your synagogue’s food guidelines. Do these rules take ethical consumption into account?
Join an eating Chavurah: Form a group within the congregation to share recipe and meals
Plant acommunity garden: Grow food to share amongst members or with a local food bank.
Volunteer at a Local Food Shelter: In addition to helping serve food, consider working with your local shelter to develop healthier menus for guests.
Improve school lunches andchild nutrition: Encourage schools to develop healthier menus and advocate for improved Child Nutrition programs on the national level in the U.S. and Canada. Develop materials for classroom use or for extracurricular activities
Collect food: Instead of the traditional canned food drive, collect natural, less processed foods.
Host a “local” cooking class: Invite a local chef or congregant to lead a cooking class using local, less processed and/or fresh ingredients (e.g. holiday side dishes or whole wheat challah).
COEJL:The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life is an organization that provides news, program resources and advocacy resources.
Films:Food, Inc., Fast Food Nation, No Impact Man, King Corn
Topical Books: Jewish Eating, David Kraemer The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food or Food Rules, Michael Pollan Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer Just Food, James E. McWilliams