Beach Reads

By the Book: Discover ‘What the Fork Are You Eating?’

It’s too bad that South Forker Stefanie Sacks’s important book What the Fork Are You Eating? (Tarcher/Penguin) is too long and technical—especially in the opening chapter with its many abbreviations—because what she has to say about eating well is timely and significant.

The tone is conversational, authoritative, confident, often delightfully sarcastic and always encouraging. The book is also personal, with much of what’s here tested on the pulse. A childhood that included recurring bouts of asthma, allergies, bronchitis and pneumonia led her, in her teens, to adopt various diets such as vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic and blood type. She knows better now. Nonetheless, the mass of information—charts, lists, references—all seem a bit much, especially for non-specialist readers. Of course, the book could be read in sittings, sections printed out and apps downloaded. She’s reasonable; she’d be pleased if we just take what we can.

What the Fork Are You Eating? shows that a pro can visit the dark side. Sacks indulges at times in bad stuff. She’s also no knee-jerk pleader for organic, though she does recommend going that route for the most part. At the heart of her thesis is that all should learn where food comes from and how it’s treated from farm to market to table. There are surprises: what’s frozen or processed is not necessarily to be avoided, though her advise is the fewer the ingredients the better. Forget bottled water and get a stainless steel thermos and fill it up. And wait ’til you see the list of who owns what companies—Big Food conglomerates who bought up the so-called “good guys.”

A master chef who has an M.S. in nutrition and is a certified nutrition specialist (CNS) and certified dietitian nutritionist (CDN), Sacks hosts the program Stirring the Pot on WPPB and writes frequently for major publications. She’s convinced that changing food habits is not only important for improving health but also for improving society, especially the environment, by holding producers and sellers to high standards. She urges support for local farms, stores and restaurants that are open about what they do and how they do it. Much regulation is simply false or inadequate, she shows, and even terms such as “organic,” “certified humane,” and “nutrition fact” can mislead or downright lie. As the subtitle of the book puts it, get ready for “An Action Plan for Your Pantry and Plate.” Change is not easy, she acknowledges, but Sacks has practical ideas on how to proceed. Leading that list surely are the delicious recipes that make up the last chapter of the book.

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