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Boston Globe

By Jan Gardner
July 6, 2008

Family fuel
Barbara Kingsolver's family moved from Arizona to a farm in Virginia so they could grow most of their food and buy the rest locally. The bestseller "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is her chronicle of the one-year experiment.

Now along comes Betsy Block, a harried mother of two. She wants to improve her family's diet without lifting a hoe. With a refreshing sense of humor, she recounts the many frustrations and occasional joys of her experience in "The Dinner Diaries: Raising Whole Wheat Kids in a White Bread World" (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill).

As Block, a food writer adept at sifting through conflicting studies about nutrition and sustainability, experiments with healthy ingredients over the course of a year, groans arise at the dinner table. Her husband, Andy, quips that the best use of quinoa is as a Scrabble word. Even Block turns up her nose at a seven-grain hot cereal that takes 15 minutes to cook and about that long to eat. "Why are healthy whole grains so chewy?" she wonders.

Eventually Block makes some nutritious meals that her family likes and masters some tricky techniques. She and her husband sneak a piece of chocolate after the kids go to bed. And she learns that exotic ingredients like chickpea flour become as alluring as forbidden fruit to 5-year-old Maya when they are hidden away in her home office.