You know how there’s that one friend or co-worker who always knows everything about what you should eat and what you shouldn’t and why? Around here, our go-to food expert is Margaret Wittenberg. She and her husband started their own small health food store about 35 years ago and she’s been immersed in all things food ever since.Margaret knows everything (at least that’s how it feels to me!) and what she doesn’t easily remember, she’ll research for you. Of course there isn’t enough of Margaret to go around for all of us to pepper her with our personal questions. (Sigh.)
Luckily, Margaret has now made all of her awesome food knowledge available 24/7 through her fully revised The Essential Good Food Guide opens in a new tab. She writes about buying, storing and cooking just about every food you can imagine — from whole grains and specialty flours to fruits and vegetables, beans, meat and seafood. But there’s a whole lot more. She fills you in on the “how” and “why” on things like food labels, contaminants in seafood and nutritional benefits of organics. Heard buzz words like “local,” “biodynamic,” “pastured,” or “sustainable” being thrown around? Margaret helps explain what those terms really mean and busts some of the marketing claims.
Ever forget the ratio of water to rice? Want to know what fruits and vegetables are in season? What’s the best way to store your nuts and seeds? You’ll find all the answers in Margaret’s comprehensive guide. If you read food articles or recipes that recommend little-known ingredients (maybe quark, schiacciata or yuba), Margaret helps you figure out what they are and if you want to try them. She also gives you the low down on basics like culinary oils, seasonings and sweeteners — and provides a bit of common sense guidance about moderation. Margaret really is that best friend who shares what she knows to help us all make smart choices at the store and at the stove.
And here’s what I like most about Margaret’s advice, in person and in her book: she doesn’t judge. She simply gives you the information you need and lets you decide what’s right for your family and your budget. You’ll walk away empowered with the knowledge you need to make your own choices. No judgment, just lots of great information to help you find your way on your own personal food journey.
Here’s a taste of what you’ll find:
There’s no denying that sometimes nothing hits the spot more than something really sweet. Blame it on our genes. Since poisonous plants generally contain bitter alkaloids, scientists speculate this penchant for sweets may have evolved as a protective mechanism to ensure that our early ancestors ate enough high-calorie but nontoxic foods to survive through times of scarcity. However, in these days of plenty, the challenge is to choose sugars wisely and consume them in moderation to maintain a healthy weight. Because sugars contain so few nutrients in relation their calories, minimizing their intake also helps ensure your diet is comprised of a high percentage of nourishing foods that contribute to optimal health and well-being.
Way back in the day (before starting that natural food store) Margaret was a schoolteacher in Wisconsin. She’s always brought that Midwestern level-headed inquisitiveness and helpfulness to everything she does. With this book, she’s teaching a whole new batch of us. And there’s no test at the end — just good food. Enjoy!
Margaret M. Wittenberg is a globally recognized authority and educator on natural and organic foods with more than 35 years of experience. She is a former member of the USDA National Organic Standards Board and has served on many other boards focused on organic agriculture, seafood sustainability, agricultural environmental standards, and farm animal welfare. In 2005, Margaret was honored with the National Audubon’s Society’s prestigious Rachel Carson Award in recognition of her lifelong work.