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Wednesday, 21 November 2007 00:00

Recommended diversions

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Omnivore’s Dilemma

What should we eat for dinner? Do we buy organic? Do we grow our own food? Should we eat fewer carbs or curb our protein? The basic idea of what to eat now fraught with unprecedented choice and anxiety in an age of fast food convenience and a supermarket’s infinite possibilities. As the American menu has expanded, so too has its risks — cancer-causing additives, industrially processed products, genetically modified foods, calories and fat grams that steer us in and out of diets. And all the while, we lose the connection to that natural process of how animals and plants once fed us. Author Michael Pollan delivers a stunning book of how food comes to us and what our myriad of meal choices now means as the very survival of the human species. Weaving elegant prose and fabulous research, Pollan traces four meals back to their roots — from fast food to a gourmet meal — and you’ll be amazed to learn what happens to the food we normally take for granted. Pollan makes a compelling case for re-examining the political, economic and moral implications of our food choices. A must-read for the modern consumer.

 

Aphrodite’s Daughter

Travel across time and meet a host of powerful and daring women in this poetry collection by Winston-Salem’s Becky Gould Gibson. Inspired by stories from Greco-Roman mythology, Christianity and art through the ages, Gibson eases into self-reflection and challenges the reader to humanize feminist icons. We imagine Aphrodite ranting through an email or a 9th Century abbess giving a speech that would make William Wallace tremble. As Vikings are about to strike her monastery, Abbess Ebba cries out to her fellow nuns: “Hallowed steel, halt, hide until needed! / Mild Mother Mary, now let them come; / my sheath is stocked — keen-edged, cunning. / Watch them bleat back to their long-boats, / blood shouts, swearing: ‘This new god has / wondrous ways!’”

While delivering homages to goddesses, Gibson treads into her own pool of personal experience. We knowingly nod at the metaphor of daughters exhibited like Ming vases. During a pap smear test, we enter the most sacred orifice of a woman whose very cells flaunt themselves like Jazz Age flappers. Gibson dares us to laugh at our icons as we do ourselves. In one series of poems celebrating images of the Virgin Mary, irreverent titles abound — “Our Lady of the Cucumber” and “Our Lady of the Belt Buckle.” This collection, which won the 2006 X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, celebrates a keen-eyed talent in the prime of her craft. Get thee to a bookstore.

— By Michael Beadle

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