30 June 2009

In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan

Finished off reading an amazing "eater's manifesto" by Michael Pollan called In Defense of Food. It's a short and engrossing read on the problems with the American diet and how we can choose to reverse them. Pollan has an excellent way of subverting the obtuse language of food as we know it in the Western context. And much of it, Pollan argues, cannot even be called "food" - he cuttingly deems much of it "edible foodlike substance," ha! His writing is sincere and his tips for changing one's own diet to be healthier and more conscious are easy to incorporate. By not pushing vegetarianism or veganism but leaving the choice of diet open, Pollan hopes to change the death path of the quote-unquote average American.

Sidenote, re: deathpath - "In 1960 Americans spent 17.5 percent of their income on food and 5.2 percent of national income on health care. Since then, those numbers have flipped: Spending on food has fallen to 9.9 percent, while spending on health care has climbed to 16 percent of national income." This is outrageous.

In Defense of Food is a work that all people must read, because though we all eat, we are too often misguided or wrongly mystified, largely by a movement championed by the food industries (hand-in-hand with scientists) known as Nutritionism: studying nutrients in isolation to extract their supposed benefits, then injecting these into our food products.
  • Wonder Bread with the whole grain removed and manipulated in the lab with any number of additives to make it white and soft.
  • Milk with the fat removed, then - since the health benefits of the milk have been cancelled by doing so - adding in vitamins that are really only fat-soluble anyway. Low-fat or skim milk isn't real milk: you're drinking milk rendered less nutrient-dense and then patched up with additives so it resembles milk.
  • And so on, and so on. Won't spoil the book.
Seriously though, best guide to eating I've read yet. And I thought I already had an idea of what's essential to nutrition... it's liberating to forge a path to more deliberate eating. It'll debunk those myths that are perpetuated all around us in order to sell more food-like substances in our groceries. Go pick it up as soon as you can: In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan.
Then take a good look at what you have on your plate. Is it food?

1 comment:

William.K.H said...

I read Pollan's 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' a few years back. It really changed my outlook on food. I'll have to give this one a read as well.