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After Hours: Recommended Reading

By Kathy Biehl, Published on October 30, 2007

Food & Nutrition / Clothing: Beyond Fashion

Food & Nutrition

In recent years, food has ascended to ranks of entertainment and engendered an almost fetishistic fascination - all in all, a status that obscures the original and still pivotal purpose it serves: nourishment. That very purpose is the unwavering focus of the Nutrition Action Healthletter, a stalwart and consistent antidote to food faddism and glorification, published by the public advocacy non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The print publication, which comes out eight times a year, is a breezy read in terms of length, being only some 16 pages long, and writing style, which is friendly and conversational. The content, however, is anything but easy to digest. The newsletter examines and often decimates nutritional and health claims and proves that much of what we love to eat and do (or not do) is really not very good for us. Each issue lays out and evaluates the nutritional content and impact of food and supplements; diseases, conditions and lifestyle patterns also fall under its microscope. Best avoid this newsletter if you don't want to endanger your attachment to Coldstone Creamery and Sara Lee. If, on the other hand, you want to be an informed consumer in every sense of the word, this publication is more helpful than a shelf full of food label disclosures.

One recurring feature that is especially eye-opening analyzes popular prepared foods and items on fast food and restaurant menus. NA has mastered putting numbers in perspective: one slice of Sbarro thin crust cheese pizza has the calories of a Quarter Pounder and almost the same fat content; one Starbucks blueberry scone ranks on par with a Big Mac. Its research drives home that even when a choice looks healthy, it might not really be. Ordering a salad at Panera, for example, isn't necessarily a significantly better nutritional deal than a panini. I was flabbergasted to read that the Fuji Apple Chicken salad contains 1020 grams of sodium - more than either the saltier tasting Caesar salad or a cup of broccoli cheddar soup.

It's hardly all bad news. The Health Letter ferrets out and spotlights the best choices in any category it rates. It ranks products and menu items in charts that are easy to read at a glance. It makes recommendations and tips for specific chain restaurant menus and has compiled a detailed guide for Chinese restaurants in general.

Coverage of supplements and herbal remedies is also extensive, with an eye to their effectiveness (or lack of it) and to conditions and diseases they guard against. The Health Letter usually contains nutritionally sound but appealing recipes, and it always finds room for public health issues, such as additives, food safety and recalls and soft drinks in schools.

The freely accessible online archives contain major items from past issues, as well as the back page and Right Bite and Food Porn column .

Clothing: Beyond Fashion

Trappings: Stories of Women, Power and Clothing

Here's a book alert for anthropologists (degreed and self-styled), sociologists, fashion mavens, woman's issue supporters and anyone who enjoys verbal snapshots of the lives of real people. Trappings: Stories of Women, Power and Clothing (Rutgers University Press 2007) is a diverse and engrossing collection of photographs and interviews that started with the question, "What do you wear that makes you feel powerful?" That inquiry sprang into a larger and profound dialogue about life experiences, which took place over six years and in more than 30 locations across the country, including Alaska. The project is the brainchild of a collaboration called Two Girls Working, the joint name of artists Tiffany Ludwig and Renee Piechocki. In their cross-country treks, they explain, they "talked with more than 500 women and girls, from ages four through 92, who ranged from office workers to drag-kings, stay-at-home moms to attorneys, fashion industry executives to elected officials, students to cowgirls." The women selected for inclusion speak in their own voices (their interviews were transcribed, without commentary) and demonstrate their relationship to their chosen power outfits in diverse and often captivating color photographs. The book lends itself to being read and digested in little bites. Enjoy.

© Kathy Biehl 2007. All Rights Reserved.

cover of Trappings: Stories of Women, Power, and ClothingTrappings: Stories of Women, Power, and Clothing
Author: Tiffany Ludwig; Renee Piechocki; Two Girls Working
Binding: Hardcover
List price: $29.95 USD
Amazon price: $21.86 USD