Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly vegetables.

These are the very first sentences of the introduction to Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. The rest of the book is spent supporting those seemingly simple sentences.

I am only about a third of the way into the book, however, it is clear that Pollan speaks nothing but common sense about food, the way we view it, and how we need to stop viewing mainly it as a nutrition delivery system.

Saveur has an interview with him on their website which gives a sense of what he is communicating in the book. I highly recommend you go read it if you are interested in how Americans eat ... or simply how you eat. Here's a nibble ...
This seems an odd time in which to offer a defense of food, since if you open a newspaper or turn on the TV you'd think we were in the midst of an explosion of popular interest in chefs and cooking. Why do you believe food needs defending?

The way I see it, food is under attack from two corners. One is the food industry, which is busy turning perfectly good food into abhorrent, complicated products. The example I cite in the book is "whole wheat white bread", which is a new, 40-ingredient monstrosity, designed by Sara Lee and some other companies, that has all the tactile pleasures of Wonder bread and "whole grain goodness", too. Real bread needs to be defended from imitations like that.

Food is also under attack from nutritionists and a nutritional–industrial complex that encourages us to look at it strictly as a conveyance of nutrients and which elevates the question of health above all others. To ask only Is this good for your body? Is this going to make you live longer? Is this going to help prevent heart disease? is a very limited and even counterproductive way of looking at food. So while, yes, food certainly has supporters right now, they're a pretty elite group. The attack, on the other hand, is widespread and includes just about everything going on at the average supermarket.

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