Barcelona Hotels Articles

April 23, 2010

Two book reviews: Spain: A Culinary Road Trip and In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto


Hitting the road to tour Spain with a small group of celebrity pals, chef Mario Batali reminisces about his teen years spent in the country while discovering plenty of new delights. Written as a companion book to his PBS series “Spain… On the Road Again,” Batali’s book, Spain: A Culinary Road Trip, documents his travels with pals Mark Bittman (of the New York Times), Claudia Bassols (a Spanish actress) and co-author Gwyneth Paltrow quite extensively. With full-color photos, tons of great recipes, and a play-by-play of the group’s itinerary, the book is jam-packed with details about Spain’s delicious food and where to best appreciate it.

As you’d expect from a culinary road trip, Batali rhapsodizes over the group’s many meals throughout the country. The trip begins in Madrid and the friends wend their way through highlights in Basque country, Barcelona, Mallorca, Valencia and more before finally returning to Madrid for a cooking showdown. Along the way Batali reveals, in one of the book’s many amusing sidebars, that he will eat anything except for durian, an Asian fruit they’re not likely to encounter on their journey. His female dining companions, on the other hand, object to consuming “ugly” foods like percebes-a truly hideous creature otherwise known as the gooseneck barnacle. Paltrow is also a vegetarian, and apparently misses out on a great deal of jamon (ham), which seems to be consumed daily by the rest of the party.

Tasting everything from authentic paella in Valencia to an enormous variety of tapas from both old and new schools of Spanish cuisine, the fab four get up to some shenanigans, talk to local legends, and share recipes as well as laughs. Including a complete list of their destinations at the back of the book, you too can follow in their famous footsteps as you explore the best Spain has to offer.


If you enjoy food, from the finest cuisine to the humblest of home-cooked meals, you’ve got to read Michael Pollan’s latest book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Starting with the simple summary “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” Pollan expands on these ideas to explain exactly why eating healthfully has become so challenging in a world that appears to be literally bursting with food.

Taking on “food products” and the food scientists that create them in their Frankensteinian labs, Pollan explores the concept of “nutritionism,” which he suggests stems from viewing meals as nutrition, rather than food. With society’s increased dependence on experts to determine what makes a well-balanced meal, Pollan believes we have moved into the age of nutritionism, relying on the fraudulent claims of those who work in the food industry and, of course, have ulterior motives.

From deceptive marketing to plain old bad science, Pollan explains exactly why food that is supposedly engineered for maximum health benefits are, in fact, some of the very worst for you. Additionally, he explores the connection between bad health and money-making within the food industry. Pollan shows that while we must all eat to live, most of the people involved in the food industry actually profit off of slowly killing their customers. Shockingly backed up by facts, it’s a chilling wake-up call for eaters everywhere.

With in-depth analysis of the problem, as well as clear-cut solutions-including chapters on what and how to eat-Pollan’s book is a must-read for anyone who’s ever picked up a knife and fork. For your health, for your sanity, for the love of food, this book is truly a manifesto, complete with a call to action and instructions for true change.

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