Sunday, March 6, 2011
AN NPR "SHOT" AT THE SAFE FOOD HANDBOOK
Well, you can't win all the time. Nor can you like every review of your book. The serious reviews of The Safe Food Handbook to date have been gratifyingly positive. The media ones are OK.
I don't really expect much from a reviewer (and I have been one myself) - just three things: 1) read the book; 2) spell my name correctly; and 3) balance the need to be witty and profile yourself with a fair take on what the book actually says.
The review by the National Public Radio (NPR) Health Blog ("Shots") is certainly the shortest to date: (http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/12/28/132402841/5-health-books-you-dont-need-to-read-because-we-did)
Here goes speed dating meets literary criticism.
The Safe Food Handbook by Heli Perrret
Food is scary. "Risky food is everywhere." Deal with it.
By the way, I rather like the ambiguity of the NPR blog title "Shots" as it could mean a "shot of medicine", shooting down (as in a put-down), or "a shot in the dark." I do wonder in this case whether the reviewer actually read the book, or just "speed dated" it for a few minutes, before he indulged in his "literary criticism." In his hurry, he spelt my name incorrectly. I don't mind the "Dr." being left off as I don't use it 99% of the time anyway, but "Perrret" spelt - yes, with 3"r"s and one "t" is sort of cute, but not correct.
Whereas I like the fact that the review is punchy and witty, I wish it had also given a fair view of the book. The review says "food is scary." This is not an alarmist book. As Carole Marks, of the radio program "A Touch of Grey" recently said in introducing me on her program, it is an "empowering book." I was so pleased that she saw it as such. Yes, risks in food are mentioned, food group by food group, but always as a starting point for solutions. The consumer can take charge. And in fact, one of the mains reasons I wrote it is because I felt there was a need for a food safety book that is written by someone who loves food - growing it, cooking it and eating it.
I don't know about the final "deal with it" part of the review. It depends how you read that phrase. If you read it as "you can deal with it," then that's good. As the book says, you will never be able to avoid all the risks that could crop up in your food from time to time, but you will be able to avoid many of them if you are an informed consumer.
But there's the problem of the heading of the whole review "Five Books You Don't Need to Read Because We Did." I am afraid that is not going to help you be an informed consumer who avoids food risks. This review certainly does not give you the answers. And there's more to eating safely on a daily basis than avoiding Salmonella bacteria, and more to safe practices than washing your produce. Read it and you'll find out.