When I was in college I briefly dated a boy whose idea of a meal was eating cold meat chili from an open can. In retrospect, how and what he chose to feed himself provided a very telling insight into his character and values. How and what we eat shapes our lives and who were are. Nothing we do is more intimate; our meals sustain our very existence. When we choose to grow our own food, buy from local farmers markets and not eat highly processed packaged food, we are not only taking positive steps toward building and sustaining a locally based economy, but we are also lessening our collective carbon footprint upon the planet.

If you are starting to feel inspired to create some simple, affordable, tasty meals from locally available seasonal food, but are a bit clueless how to begin, Lisa Jervis’ new book, Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating, may provide just the help that you need.

A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating

This inexpensive 136 page volume is full of simple easy recipes that celebrate whole ingredients and delicious local food. Jervis’ book provides many practical cooking tips and hands on advice, as well as an easy to understand overview of our diseased food system, and simple things that we all can do to change it.

Avoid Most Snack Foods that Come in Boxes or Bags

Cook Food covers the basics, like what are the essential things to have in your kitchen and pantry, how to properly roast vegetables, and the easiest way to wash a leek;  but the book also delves into more complex issues surrounding factory farming, sustainability, food access and how we define what is meant by “healthy”.  In the introduction Ms. Jervis explains:

To me, the less processed something is, the more healthy it is. But other than that—which basically entails cooking a lot, avoiding most snack foods that come in boxes or bags, and carefully reading the label of anything I’m thinking about buying—I don’t worry too much about my nutritional needs.

This “manualfesto” is an engaging read that integrates a broad scope of sustainable food systems information and philosophy with sensible instruction on how to make affordable delicious vegetarian meals from locally available seasonal ingredients. It seamlessly combines the theoretical with the practical. While I was contemplating making the appealing “spring vegetable sauté over polenta” on page 71 for lunch, I was also thinking about the fact that “the average bite of food travels 1500 miles from where it is grown to where it is eaten“.

daikon and carrots at the Mission Bay Farmers' MarketLocally grown daikon and carrots at the Mission Bay Farmers Market

Creative Destruction Is Upon Us

Lisa Jervis is based in Oakland, and her accomplishments are numerous. I initially met her back in the mid nineties in San Francisco, when she first founded and began publishing the incisive Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture. Back then the dot-com bubble had not even started to inflate yet, Bitch was just a small new local zine, and I worked in a tiny, claustrophobic coffee shop on Valencia Street.

The massive global economic bubble that has now exploded seems to dwarf our economic recession from the turn of this century. Perhaps indeed we are on the eve of creative destruction, and we are all in the middle of a collective global process to simplify and restructure how we live and what we eat. Our new more sustainable future is full of bicycles, urban gardens and simple home cooked meals. Discovering the incredible joy and pleasure in cooking locally grown wholesome food is a perfect way to join the sustainable revolution; and Cook Food: a manualfesto for easy, healthy, local eating can help to show you just how to start.

beetI grew this beet in our backyard; it was delicious.

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

-Michael  Pollan