In Defense of Food

An Eater's Manifesto

Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food.

“If you spent any time at all in a supermarket in the 1980s, you might have noticed something peculiar going on. The food was gradually vanishing from the shelves. Not literally vanishing – I'm not talking Soviet-style shortages. No, the shelves and refrigerated cases still groaned with packages and boxes of various edibles, more of them landing every year in fact, but a great many of the traditional supermarket foods were steadily being replaced by 'nutrients,' which are not the same thing. Where once the familiar names of recognizable comestibles – things like eggs or breakfast cereals or snack foods – claimed pride of place on the brightly colored packages crowding the aisles, now new, scientific-sounding terms like 'cholesterol' and 'fiber' and 'saturated fat' began rising to large-type prominence.”

The passage above comes from the latest work by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma (reviewed in an earlier edition of the Newswire). Titled In Defense of Food, it's another look at the American way of eating, and how to change it, one meal at a time. Consider the following:

“Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. Why your great-grandmother? Because at this point your mother and possibly even your grandmother is as confused as the rest of us; to be safe we need to go back at least a couple of generations, to a time before the advent of most modern foods....What would shopping this way mean in the supermarket? Well, imagine your great-grandmother at your side as you roll down the aisles. You're standing together in front of the dairy case. She picks up a package of Go-Gurt Portable Yogurt tubes – and has no idea what this could possibly be. Is it a food or a toothpaste? And how, exactly, do you introduce it into your body? You could tell her it's just yogurt in a squirtable form, yet if she read the ingredients label she would have every reason to doubt that that was in fact the case. Sure, there's some yogurt in there, but there are also a dozen other things that aren't remotely yogurtlike, ingredients she would probably fail to recognize as food of any kind, including high-fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, kosher gelatin, carrageenan, tri-calcium phosphate, natural and artificial flavors, vitamins, and so forth....How did yogurt, which in your great-grandmother's day consisted simply of milk inoculated with a bacterial culture, ever get to be so complicated? Is a product like Go-Gurt Portable Yogurt still a whole food? A food of any kind? Or is it just a food product?”

Subtitled An Eater's Manifesto, Pollan's work shows the reader how to start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich his or her life and enlarge his or her sense of what it means to be healthy (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”). Be sure to read all about it.


Copyright 2008, S. Halversen.
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