Taking pleasure in food: a new genre of diet books.

Sorry about the lack of blogposts lately. I’ve been traveling in North Carolina and West Virginia, visiting family and enjoying the sudden spring. (My mother’s peach tree is in full bloom, and my sister’s yard is dotted with tasty little bittercress.)

Whenever I’m around these parts I try to visit my favorite Appalachian independent bookstore—Malaprop’s, in Asheville, North Carolina. And of course, being the person I am, I spend a good deal of time in the food section. I noticed something funny this time: French Women Don’t Get Fat seems to have spawned a whole new genre of diet books. Mediterranean Women Stay Slim Too and Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat  were nearby on the shelf.

Now, I didn’t study the books in depth, but the gist of each of them seems to be that if you follow this or that culture’s intact food tradition, you’re likely to be healthy. Right. Eat traditional foods, stay away from industrial processed “food,” get moderate exercise in your daily life, and you’ll be healthy. This is not a surprise.

But these books are onto something else most diet books tend to miss: the importance of taking pleasure in food. This gives me hope for the future of American eating. Maybe these books can begin to erode our culture’s peculiar brand of food Puritanism—the stubborn belief that bad-tasting food is good for you and good-tasting food is bad for you, that pleasure in food is a sin, and that bad health is punishment for the sin of pleasure in food. And if we can get over that ridiculous hangup, imagine how healthy we might be!

Pleasure in food is one of my favorite topics. Watch this space for more on some fascinating research that suggests that we get more nutrition from food we enjoy.


  1. Laura said,

    March 29, 2007 @ 11:34 am

    —“Watch this space for more on some fascinating research that suggests that we get more nutrition from food we enjoy.”—

    I am looking forward to reading some more!

  2. kathleen said,

    April 10, 2007 @ 9:28 am

    I love local foods…they have more ethnicity, more hominess, more enjoyability…what IS American eating? As I think about my own states of Colorado and Wyoming (where I grew up and where my house is, respectively), I see the beef culture, Mexican culture, Native American culture, vegetarianism, and the farm culture. All this is American culture, everyone seems to take pleasure in their foods…hmmm. It’s ALL good to me, and everyone seems to be enjoying their food. For me, there is nothing more fabulous than an open air farmer’s market, where fresh bread and local produce can be found.

  3. crabappleherbs said,

    April 11, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

    More to come soon on the pleasure aspect… And yes, Kathleen, I think culture is really important too. People who are into nutrition tend to forget that, and that’s too bad.

  4. Heidi (Earthkitten) said,

    April 11, 2007 @ 9:46 pm

    Hi there….I read the book “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, and apart from the rather tactless title (or so I thought, anyhow) this book was a very good read on many fronts. It really did make it seem like a celebration of foods, not deprivation…..all common sense, and wonderful descriptions of tasty, “sinful” foods and how to enjoy them all in moderation and still lose some weight. I found it very interesting, and to make a long story short….I lost about 12 pounds pretty effortlessly. I would recommend it if anyone out there is thinking about buying it. It’s a quick read too.

    It was rather refreshing to read a ‘diet’ book that didn’t demonize foods too much, and really encouraged eating local, seasonal, and fresh. I think the author is right on the money. She is advocating a way of life, so to speak. Probably the way people ate 50-or-so years ago, before we started seeing these epidemics of obesity, not to mention the epidemics of “diet” muffins and cakes, and all the other nonsense that makes up the trillion-dollar industry that is ravaging north america.

    Love your blog…it’s so interesting everytime I read it. Thanks!

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