Reconnect with Your Food System: 15 of Our Favorite Books, Podcasts, & Shows all about Food

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unmask the many gaps within our food system, it also opens up the opportunity to discuss what needs to be done to honor our food producers and get food into the mouths of those who need it. Since many people are stuck inside their homes during the current stay at home orders, the Eat Greater Des Moines team has put together our favorite books, movies and podcasts that remind us of the influence we can have on our food systems. The following list can not only help you discover the role you can have within your community’s food system, but how to build a meaningful connection to your food as well. 

Books

  1. Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America & Anti-Hunger Groups by Andrew Fisher. This book focuses on anti-hunger efforts not through charity, but by recognizing the root causes of food insecurity, improving public health, and reducing income inequality. Andrew Fisher pinpoints the roots of hunger within our country and proposes a plan that focuses on public health, economic justice, and economic democracy. It is only through approaches like these that we can hope to end hunger, not just manage it. Steven’s pick! 
  1. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. In this book, author, Michael Pollan explores the question of ‘What should we have for dinner?’ To find out, he researches and analyzes each of our main food systems including, industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves. This narrative takes readers into Iowa’s cornfields, fast food restaurants, organic farms, and science labs to explore how food ends up on our dinner plate. 
  1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbra Kingsolver. The story of a family that moves to a farm in the Appalachian Mountains and begins a year-long journey of intentionally eating as local as possible. It’s a beautifully written book with history and facts about the produce we eat and why we eat it woven throughout. Joie’s pick! 
  1. Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All by Oran Hesterman. In Fair Food Hesterman shares his vision for changing, not only what we eat, but how food is grown, packaged, delivered, marketed, and sold. He introduces people and organizations across the country who are already doing this work in a number of creative ways, and provides a wealth of practical information for readers who want to get more involved.
  1. Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration by Carla Hall. “In Carla Hall’s Soul Food, the beloved chef and television celebrity takes us back to her own Nashville roots to offer a fresh, lip-smackin’ look at America’s favorite comfort cuisine and traces  the history of soul food from Africa and the Caribbean to the American South”. Aubrey’s Pick! 

Podcasts

  1. Good Food from KCRW hosted by Evan Kleiman. A weekly show with stories and interviews from a variety of people in the food system with topics from vegan to Thanksgiving to Japanese food artisans. By tuning in to Good Food, you can discover delicious recipes, great restaurants, and unique places to buy authentic ingredients. Joie’s pick! 
  1. Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard  featuring David Chang. David is an American restaurateur, author, television personality and founder of the Momofuku restaurant group. David chats with Dax about what it was like growing up Korean American, his first time eating ramen in Japan and how he was led to cooking. Dax talks about elitism in food and David discusses how depression led him to open Momofuku. The two talk about the importance of mental health through self-medicating, sharing painful experiences, and asking for help. 
  • Earth Eats hosted by Kayte Young. A weekly program exploring the complex world of food. From recipes to try at home to stories from kitchens and farms, this podcast aims to deepen conversations about food culture, food justice and sustainable food systems. An inspiring podcast that talks specifically about farming in the Midwest. Steven’s pick! 
  1. Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg A podcast created by Food Tank. In this podcast, Dani talks with important people within the food industry including, chefs, activists, and experts to outline their ideal food system and how their projects are making a better food system more attainable.  
  1. Solvable by Malcom Gladwell. Solvable hosts the world’s most innovative thinkers and their proposed solutions to our world’s largest problems. The interviews, conducted by journalists, Malcolm Gladwell and Jacob Weisberg, who create conversations that acknowledge the complexity of the issues while inspiring hope that the problems are, in fact, solvable. Aubrey’s pick! 

TV Shows/Movies

  1. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by chef and food writer, Samin Nosrat. Samin travels the world to explore four basic keys to wonderful cooking, serving up feasts and helpful tips along the way. The episodes show Nosrat’s travels to home kitchens all over the world. She explores the principles of what makes food delicious and how people can easily incorporate the elements into every dish they make. Aubrey’s pick! 
  1. Cooked is a netflix series by food author, Michael Pollan. Explored through the lenses of the four natural elements – fire, water, air and earth – Cooked is an enlightening and compelling look at the evolution of what food means to us through the history of food preparation and its universal ability to connect us. 
  1. Julie & Julia A classic movie that explores the joys of food and the lives/emotions it can bring with it. Starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, watch the story of Julia Child’s start in the cooking profession intertwined with blogger Julie Powell’s challenge to cook all the recipes in Child’s first book. Steven’s pick!
  1. Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story is a YouTube movie made by two filmmakers and food lovers, Jen and Grant, dive into the issue of food waste and pledge to quit grocery shopping and survive only on discarded food for 6 months.The film features numerous interviews from food waste experts around the country who look at the core of this issue.

David Chang’s Ugly Delicious is everything you love about food! Each episode is framed around a famous dish and the examination of the cultural, sociological and culinary history of how it got to be what it is today. The storytelling is phenomenal and shows just how connected we all are to food. Joie’s pick!

Emma Gellerstedt

Emma Gellerstedt

Intern, Dietetics Student at Iowa State University