Saturday, July 10, 2010

In Defense of Food

well, I'm already slacking on my goal to post more often! however, the best part about life is the opportunity to try, try again :)

I thought I would begin my renewed blogger resolve with a book review, since I'm working my way through my summer reading list. although you will notice, the first book I read this summer was not on my planned list - that's because it was introduced to me by my new friend Shaina, who lent it to me to read on my long flight back from London. without further ado, let me introduce you to Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto"

one might think, with the obesity problem in the United States going at full force, that food is to blame. in a world where "food" is most often genetically modified and scientifically recreated, this book celebrates real food - the kind of food you can pick off a tree or pull from the ground. it is a defense of food that your great grandmother would recognize as food. Michael Pollan writes about the obsession in the United States with "nutrition," not food, and how our obsession with food science has inhibited our ability to truly appreciate real food. in lieu of making a huge list of all that I learned and appreciated from this book, I'll just stick to a few highlights:

highlight 1: whole foods
the concept of "whole foods" became more clear to me as I read this book. in the grocery store, when you pick up any random food product on the self, you're apt to discover an ingredient list like this: Rice, Sugar, Polydextrose (Source of Fiber)Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Coconut and Palm Kernel Oils)Salt, contains Less than .5% of Natural and Artificial Flavor, Red 40, Yellow 6, Turmeric Oleoresin (Color)Yellow 5, Blue 1, Blue 2, BHA (to Help Protect Flavor).......etc. etc. (the list of ingredients goes on and on, in other words). instead of buying food with dozens of ingredients we can't even pronounce and don't naturally occur anywhere, we should buy real food with real ingredients! Michael Pollan suggests that in order to avoid eating food that has been scientifically tampered with and thus stripped of many nutrients (processed flour and sugar, for example) we should only buy food that our great grandmothers would recognize as food. why? because the "western diet," high in processed foods, created stuff like heart disease and cancer, so by eating whole food, instead of processed food, we can live longer and healthier lives.

highlight 2: change our food culture
this doesn't only include what we eat, but how we eat as well. a large part of our food experience should happen in the kitchen or dining room, with the rest of the family, eating real food and getting real conversation. Pollan writes "the shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from mere animal biology to an act of culture." amen.

highlight 3: reestablish a connection with food
this includes having a garden, whenever possible! Pollan writes about the (healthy) relationship we can have with food when we help coax it out of the ground, harvest it, cook it with our families, and eat it together. then maybe we can recognize that food is, as Pollan says, "no mere thing but a web of relationships among a great many living beings, some of them human, some not, but each of them dependent on the other, and all of the ultimately rooted in soil and nourished by sunlight."

so this brings me to Michael Pollan's simple motto for overcoming the deranged, industrialized world of food products:

Eat (real, not processed) food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

happy eating!

1 comment:

Curt and Ronda said...

This IS on my reading list, next! Sounds like things we know, but that we need to be reminded of VERY often!