You Are What You Read About What You Eat

I recently finished a great book by Michael Pollan entitled, “In Defense of Food, An Eaters Manifesto” and I thought it was worth a share.  The authors credo: “Eat Food.  Not Too Much. Mostly Plants”, is unfolded against current eating habits and correlative social/health/industrial phenomena tied to the “Western Diet”.  What is the western diet?  According to the Author, the “real food” that we should be eating can be found on the peripheries of the grocery store and the more “western” items fill the middle majority of the store.  Sound flaky?  Like a flaked pastry wrapped in plastic? Not so much.  If you think about it, pretty much every store that you have been in is ringed by the bakery, the deli, the dairy, the fish counter, and……the produce.  So what is left?  Oreos, Stove Top, Hungry Man, Pizza Pops, and literally thousands of other items that contain hundreds of ingredients that most of us can’t identify (I am being presumptuous here but feeling secure in my assumptions).  We are presented with some good advice which states that if your grandparents or great grandparents couldn’t identify it as “food” then perhaps it is best to steer clear. The other thing that makes our diet “western” is the penchant to unbalance our plates with above average portions of meat, red, politically correct but environmentally unsustainable meat.

Pollan also gives us a breakdown of dietary trends such as vitamins and supplements, cholesterol, omega-3, trans fats, grains, and some of the effects that these trends have had on public health.  Like vitamins?  They apparently don’t do much.  The fact that you like vitamins is because you take a greater interest in your overall physical health and likely treat your body a little better than those who would sneer in derision when passing the supplements aisle on the way to the potato chips.  The truth seems to be that vitamins separated from their food sources aren’t very effective.  How about omega-3?  Comes from fish right?  Wrong.  Omega-3 is abundant in fish…that eat plants.  When you consider the health benefits of fish (protein, fats, oils, and acids) and plants as regular dietary staples it seems kind of silly to pump omega-3 into milk, eggs, and pills.  Especially when you consider that these animals would be richer in omega-3 if let to feed naturally rather than  on grain and synthetically formulated diets aimed at increasing food production.

Image sourced from Wikipedia

Pollan does a pretty decent job of laying out the rudiments of the politicalization  of our food.  Like Ethnic cuisine?  Keep it out of the White House or else.  If you aren’t a McDonald’s fan your favour in the polls might not last forever and if you want to run for office don’t dare oppose industrial farming lobbyists.  The government doesn’t want you to stray from its national nutritional policies which is backed by Big Agra and as a result we are made to feel weird and unpatriotic if we choose to support farmers who have diverse cropping methods, less than 100 000 chickens, and who might just want to sell us some real food for a real price (Probably a little more than you pay in the store but worth it).  Shop local and your chances of scoring some unique heirloom varieties that you won’t find in the box type grocery stores increases exponentially.  Purple tomatoes, red carrots, and multicoloured corn are all great.

POTATOES! Image from: http://www.specialtyproduce.com

One of my favourite aspects of this book is Pollans’ illumination of the problematic relationship between science and food.  Because food is SO complex, science, which in my humble opinion has strayed from its holistic philosophical roots, pursues a physicalist approach to food studies,isolating individual components of food.  In turn we are presented with beneficial or harmful properties of very small elements of what are in fact very complex organisms.  What you eat is equally important to what you do not eat and food can only be truly considered as a whole rather than its components.  In this regard we seem to treat food  like we treat our oceans.  We know next to nothing about how they work  but feel entitled to fill them full of garbage while appropriating individual components of a complex system in the name of self-interest but with paradoxical health effects .

Want to know who enjoys a good yoghurt enema?  Well you will just have to read the book to find out.

Check out “In Defense of Food” at Pollans website here:  http://michaelpollan.com/books/in-defense-of-food/

Comments and sharing are welcome.

-Animal Static

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4 Responses to “You Are What You Read About What You Eat”

  1. ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ by the same author is excellent too.

    • I picked up something else right as I finished this one but look forward to reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” once I locate a copy. Hopefully before school starts again. Thanks for the recommendation. Cheers.

  2. A great book… I’d also add ‘important’ and recommend it. Thanks for posting this review.

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