This lovely paean to Joy of Cooking crushes both the bogus science critiquing the cookbook and the broader cultural problem of trying to get reliable science about food and health.
See, this dude thought to blame obesity on the Rombauer’s cooking reference classic.
(The very same dude offered ridic specious food advice in a corporate training video I watched at work. As part of an argument against willpower that I agree with, even though it was poorly made in the video, he said that PEOPLE EAT MORE WHEN THEY EAT WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Well, OK? So now we all eat inside cardboard refrigerator box forts in the unfinished basement to ensure that, while tending to this mortal coil, no social pleasure may ever be wrought from the act of ingesting minimal calorie and nutrient requirements? Which how was this related to me getting promoted? And he didn’t even explain the point of that cruel datum? So he got all ripped to shreds in the New Yorker, which sometimes metes out justice in an unjust world.)
He blamed a friggin cookbook instead of thinking more complexly about pleasure, trauma, economics, regional planning, capitalism, and all the other social forces that shape our bodies and desires.
Also instead of realizing that food science is notoriously fraught. We would have to attempt Sade-like control over human behavior and metabolism to even try to approach scientific rigor. Subjective experience dominates these studies.
Even factors we assume to be absolute can fluctuate; the calorie content of a particular ingredient can change depending on the preparation method, and even on how well it’s chewed. The result is an academic literature full of often contradictory advice—Eating animal fats causes massive weight gain, avoid it! Eating animal fats is the only way to lose weight and keep it off, add it to your morning coffee!—that can amplify consumer anxiety toward how and what to eat.
In sum: Lots of definitive-sounding food science is bogus EXCEPT for the heroes that debunked Wansink’s abuse of my beloved Joy of Cooking. Eat what feels good the way it feels good. Science seems to concur that home-cooked foods (let Joy of Cooking teach you how!), plant-based foods, not eating too much, etc, is probably all better for you, sure. Try not to get too perfectionist in the kitchen. Share what you make. And F%^K bogus food science all to trans fats hell.