Book Report: Unprocessed

Reviews of books relevant to the food movement.

unprocessed book

One sentence summary: Thoughtful, dedicated, graduate student in Tuscon, AZ spends one year avoiding all processed food to discover what “processed” means in all facets of the food system.

Book title: Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food
Author: Megan Kimble
Year of Publication: 2015
Length: 326 pages
Keywords: local, farm-to-table, home cooking, slow food, lifestyle

Memorable Quote: “Eating unprocessed wasn’t just a way to opt out of a broken food system, it was also a way to opt in. To opt in to another way of eating, another way of being with food, flavor, and community.”

greens growing near the sink

Much like me (or any typical millennial-aged foodie these days), Megan Kimble, the author of Unprocessed got hooked learning about where our food comes from and how the system evolved to where it is today. Growing up in the Los Angeles area (Pasadena, in fact!), she ate well, but didn’t spend much time thinking about food. That changed after she left home and so during her stint in grad school doing an MFA in writing in Tuscon, she decided to act on her food interests. She writes about reading food system books and articles for fun (hi, have you met me?), being inspired by food movement icon Michael Pollan, and deciding to do something with the little power she felt she possessed.

freshly-milled flour

So Kimble decided to spend one whole year changing the way she ate by unprocessing her diet. More specifically, she avoided all ultraprocessed food. So yes, as she explains in her introduction, peanuts are processed into peanut butter when they are ground up, but that’s different than a frozen microwave dinner barely resembling the foods it started as.

Kimble’s book is organized to take the reader through 10+ topics (sugar, meat, flour, dairy, etc.) within the food system that she investigates during her year. You get the sense that all these chapters played out simultaneously in her life, but for ease of understanding, she split them into coherent sections connected through a witty narrative.

My opinion: I loved this book. I found myself (literally) nodding along with Kimble’s perspective while reading on the train to and from work. This book isn’t a page-turner, but if you invest in it with patience, the outcome is worth it. Kind of like the slow food movement, eh?

unprocessed whole grain bread

The most important thing to say in this review is how much I respect Kimble for (1) following through on a difficult journey and (2) writing really well about it.

As you recall from my recent 30-day challenge, I wrote about how difficult it is to change eating behaviors. It takes a great deal of intention, time, and effort. Kimble drastically changed her food habits for a whole year! WOW.

Diving deeper into the logistics, she was able to do that because she had a lot of autonomy over her food. She had time to cook and prepare, she didn’t travel for work much, and she didn’t have family members relying on her to get food on the table for every meal. That gave her plenty of flexibility and an opportunity to take control of changing what she ate. Many people aren’t in a situation in which this experiment would be feasible. I don’t say any of this to diminish what Kimble did at all, but to realize some key factors in her success.

reading unprocssed book

To sum up: Food system books can be a bit dry (trust me, I’ve read them), so major props to Kimble for making this book engaging and informative. She threw in just enough personal details --- New romance! New friends! --- to keep the story as strong as the educational content.

I highly recommend this read!