The road to better eating, in an era of compromise

A review of Megan Kimble's "Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food."

 

Megan Kimble picks zucchini at her plot in the University of Arizona Community Garden.
Courtney Trine

When 26-year-old Megan Kimble became intrigued by the idea of unprocessed eating, she wasn’t entirely sure what the term meant.  After all, she writes, nearly all food is processed by the time we eat it — chopped, sautéed, fermented or folded into batter — “and often it is the better for it.” But she also knew that some of our food is too processed, organic or not, and so she set out to discover where, exactly, the line should be drawn.

It took her all year. Her debut book, Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Food, documents Kimble’s shifting definitions, as she grinds wheat berries into flour, brews mead in a bucket, harvests salt from the ocean, and tries her hand at slaughtering sheep. Along the way, she explores all kinds of topics: from the preservatives that give industrially produced food a longer shelf life to the planned obsolescence of our food gadgets, from the tension between convenience and consequences, to the power of dollars spent locally.

What sets Unprocessed apart from the last decade’s rash of books about the shortcomings of our food system is Kimble’s status as a broke, busy graduate student living in arid Tucson, Arizona, on an income of less than $20,000 a year. In a cheerful, clear voice, she admits her struggles and compromises. Her garden plot, for example, is largely a failure. Like many of her generation, her social life unfolds largely in restaurants and bars, and the book smartly tackles how to navigate mostly processed menus, what makes alcohol processed (or not), and how a commitment to eating real food can either intersect or clash with the desire to be a part of community. “If I didn’t … engage in the messiness, of eating out and eating with another, then even if I ate perfectly unprocessed, I wouldn’t have really lived unprocessed,” Kimble writes. “Abstain though we try, today’s world is one of moderation. Of trying and failing, and then trying and half-succeeding.”

The book is full of fresh insights about the way communities are tied to food systems. Eating processed food, Kimble discovers, is a natural consequence of our move-wherever-the-jobs-exist economy. Yet she questions the tendency to “(outsource) to others those key activities that define the day-to-day. … What is life if not the day to day? ... The tasks we have decided to label mundane … are (those that) accumulate into relationships and memories.”

Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food
Megan Kimble
326 pages, softcover: $15.99.
William Morrow/ Harper Collins, 2015.

High Country News Classifieds
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Mountain Lion Foundation is seeking an Executive Director. Please see our website for further information - mountainlion.org/job-openings
  • WASHINGTON DC REPRESENTATIVE
    Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Washington, DC Position Reports to: Program Director The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) is seeking a Washington, DC Representative...
  • REGIONAL CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    Position Title: Regional Campaign Organizers (2 positions) Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Preferred Billings, MT; remote location within WORC's region (in or near Grand Junction...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Western Watersheds Project seeks a Tenth Circuit Staff Attorney to bring litigation in the interests of protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife, particularly focused...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....
  • HEALTH FOOD STORE IN NW MONTANA
    Turn-key business includes 2500 sq ft commercial building in main business district of Libby, Montana. 406.293.6771 /or [email protected]