Friday, April 15, 2011


Sometimes when I read two completely unrelated (on the surface) books, a connection is found.

It happened with the last two books I read. At first look, there would be no relationship. It was only when I read the last chapter of the second book that the light bulbs flashed.

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

The first was In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. This book has been on my list to read ever since I read Food Rules last summer. I wasn't disappointed. If anything, this book was even better.

The book is divided into three parts. The first defined and gave the history of nutritionism. The second described our western diseases and the third gave a game plan of what do to about it.

Like everyone else, I get so confused about the conflicting views on diet and nutrition that bombard us through the media daily. This book gave me confidence to truly know how to feed my family amidst the turmoil. What the book won't give you is a confidence in the food industry, "health" labels and all the publicity over the latest nutritional find.

The author is not a believer in a Creator but I came away from the book with an awe for the incredible way that God designed our bodies and the plants He provided to sustain us. Reading through the history of the western diet in the past 100 years and grasping just a tiny bit of the complexity of plants and humans, doesn't give me a desire to turn my health over to a scientist but builds my faith in God.

If you've ever read an article about  the newest nutritional break through and wondered what in the world you should eat..If you have stood in the grocery store overwhelmed by the choices of low fat, no cholesterol, eighteen added vitamins, extra omega-3, etc, and just longed for simple food choices... I recommend In Defense of Food.

The Johnstown Flood

The Johnstown Flood was my second book and a more different genre then the first could hardly be found.

David McCullough, in his masterful way of making history fascinating, describes the flood in 1889 that destroyed much of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. While unusual large rainfall, an "act of God", was blamed for the disaster, was the true culprit the fingerprint of men? Removing acres of trees from the mountains, narrowing the rivers to build the huge mills, and building a huge earth dam high in the mountains for a summer resort for Pittsburgh's steel millionaires certainly played a role in the disaster.

And here was where my mind went to nutrition and our diseases of civilization such as heart disease and diabetes. I'll share a few quotes from The Johnstown Flood.

"If man, for any reason, drastically alters the natural order, setting in motion whole series of chain reactions, then he better know what he is doing."

"They apparently never questioned the professed wisdom of the experts, nor bothered to look critically at what the experts were doing."

"Worse of all they had failed, out of indifference mostly, to comprehend the possible consequences of what they were doing, and particularly what those consequences might be should nature happen to behave in anything but the normal fashion, which of course, was exactly what was to be expected of nature."

Okay, so probably no other reader of The Johnstown Flood would ever make such a leap of imagination, but if the study of history is to learn something, then I'm taking this as a caution personally, not in the building of dams, but in the preparation of meals.

I love when our children connect something they are learning to some other area of life. It is inspiring to know that they "get it" and the knowledge has went deeper than the surface. I'm not sure how to promote it (in me or my children) besides consuming quality material, rich in ideas, and allow time to think. I think Charlotte Mason called it the science of relations.

Have you ever had a weird connection of two unrelated books or ideas?


  1. I think it's fascinating that you made the connection between the two books. And, I totally agree with and see that connection, too. It seems like every time we start trying to improve upon or alter the way God designed things to run we set ourselves up on a collision course for disaster sooner or later. I'm certainly not a gloom and doom person, but I always feel it's a good thing when God allows our eyes to see things - no matter which avenue He chooses to show us through. He's really been dealing with me about our food choices lately, so I think some changes are in order in this house to avoid future disasters. :0) I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for posting!

  2. I am so glad that you posted this! I really love this author, but have not yet read this book! I'll be looking for it today!! :D Thank you for sharing!!! --S

  3. ugh, I wrote a long windy comment, but blogger says it can't send it to you!

    so, I'll try something shorter:

    "Yes, Gina -- Here, here!"

    'nuf said =)

  4. I agree with your deductions completely. I am always drawing "analogies" about everything. When weeding, for example, I can't help but think "If only we get rid of bad habits (like these weeds) when they are small, they don't get out of hand and take over our lives. Things like that. Michael Pollan was one of the first authors (along with Sally Fallon) that led me to better understanding nutrition better with relation to how God made our human bodies.

  5. I've had In Defense of Food on my bookshelf for months and haven't started it - so much to read! You've encouraged me to get it out and do so! Great book review on both!

  6. I love those unexpected connections--and I think yours is a fantastic one! As you say, they both demonstrate the long-term effects of consumerism. Have you seen the video The Story of Stuff It's only about 20 minutes long, but does a great job showing the global (and personal) implications of consumerism.

    Recently we moved into a much smaller place closer to my school and my husband's work while we wait for our house to sell. I was surprised at how much I've enjoyed a smaller place--cleaning up is a snap!

    These days most people seem to think that the solution to every problem is buying something more, but for those of us who already have too much "stuff," we'd probably be happier and healthier with tossing more things out.

    (Side note--I've been a long-time lurker, but I think it's the first time I've commented. I grew up Beachy Amish so I can relate to your posts about gardening and butchering days! These days I don't do much gardening, but I like to bake and sew when I have the chance.)

  7. Hi! Yes, the connection makes sense to me as well. i just wanted to add that Catherine Marshall wrote a fiction book based on the Johnstown flood that you may enjoy~ Maybe your library has it. ~lisa

  8. I think the book the last poster was talking about is _Julie_ - I read that as a teen several times. I really enjoyed it.

    I think Charlotte Mason is right about the "science of relations" and allowing the Holy Spirit to draw our attention to the things we need to attend to.

    I notice that my girls draw connections too. And I do too. I can't think right off of 2 unrelated books that I've connected by a thread, but it has happened.

    Good reviews! In Defense of Food has been on my list, also - time to get to it!

  9. This is a great way to think. . . seeing the connections. I don't think the connection is farfetched at all. Pollan's book really helped me make sense of cooking and eating.

    (and if you want more reading on the flood, do you know _Julie_ by Catherine Marshall?)

  10. Thanks to all you who suggested reading Julie. I read it years ago. Time to read it again!

  11. Gina,

    I have read both books and was pleasantly surprised to see the connections. Bravo to you for making them.

    Your experience perfectly describes the joy of a reading/exploring/learning life.

    I've had similar experiences, but I can't remember one at the moment. I do know the odd looks that come with my comments, "Oh!! That's just like...."


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