Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Pollan’s follow up to The Omnivore’s Dilemma examines the issue of what we eat by looking at the modern Western diet as a product of what he calls “nutritionism.” According to Pollan, nutritionism is an ideology which states that “Foods are essentially the sum of their nutrient parts.” He argues that by taking the nutrients out of the context of the foods in which they naturally occur, and by taking food out of the context of culture, we are destroying relationships that have developed over centuries. This, combined with the industrialization of food production at all levels, has resulted in a host of diseases that currently plague Western nations. Pollan’s solution to this problem is what he calls the “Eater’s Manifesto,” which states “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly vegetables.” Easier said than done. The author spends that latter part of the book laying out a loose plan that will enable the average person to live according to the Manifesto. For example, if your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, don’t eat it. He offers many other bits of advice as well, covering everything from where our food should be grown (locally, if possible) to how we should eat it (not alone, and certainly not in the car.)
Though very well researched and thoroughly footnoted, In Defense of Food is very readable. Pollan’s common sense examination of nutrition fads (oat bran bagel, anyone?) points out the ridiculous extremes we now go to in order to satisfy “scientific” requirements that may be proven baseless by the very next study to come along. He makes a strong argument for completely changing our current relationship with food. His presentation is both entertaining and informative, and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in diet, health, or our current food culture.
Reviewed by Macaire
Michael Pollan's website

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