In Defense of Food

Having just picked up Michael Pollan’s new book (here’s a link to the first chapter,) and read the entire thing last night, I have to say I think it’s pretty compelling stuff. You should go out and buy it IMMEDIATELY. It picks up exactly where Omnivore’s Dilemma left off- “well, now that I know far more than I ever wanted to about how my food is produced…what exactly should I be eating?”

Pollan’s answer is succinct, and provides the basis of the entire book: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

One of the things I found especially interesting is that when asking the French when they stopped eating, the typical answer was something along the lines of “when I feel full.” The typical American answer? Some sort of visual cue. We stop eating when the package is empty, or the TV show is off, or there’s nothing left of our frozen dinner. Pollan even describes a study where bowls of soup were rigged to constantly refill from the bottom. People eating from these bowls ate something like 72% more soup.

I repeat, WE DON’T STOP EATING BECAUSE WE’RE FULL. WE STOP EATING WHEN THERE’S NOTHING LEFT. Does that strike anyone else as completely fucked up? And because it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register feeling “full,” our habit of sucking down food as quickly as possible doesn’t help.

Pollan also goes into something he covered in the Omnivore’s Dilemma- the “pile it high and sell it cheap” philosophy of food. Just think about that for a second. I’m all about a bargain, but since when should cheapness determine what we should eat? What about taste?

Like I said, it’s pretty compelling stuff. There’s a lot to be discussed, fretted over, and (probably) ultimately ignored, but I respect Pollan for doing his best to not only open the conversation, but try and keep it going.

I also enjoy that he sings the virtues of eating sensibly- I grew up in a whole milk, butter-not-margarine, vegetables are fun, don’t-you-bring-that-frozen-dinner-crap-into-my-kitchen kind of house, much to the chagrin/amazement of my friends. Seems to be working out for me.

Here’s a round up of what they’re saying on the internets:

Digest: Pollanation Mania [Ethicurean]
Michael Pollan’s Twelve Commandments for Serious Eaters: Can You Live By Them? [Serious Eats]
Interview with Marion Nestle [Eating Liberally via Ethicurean]
Reviews from Serious Eats and Ethicurean
Daniel Engber’s take on Pollan’s “Nutrional Darwinism” [Slate]
More reviews: Slate, New York Times, Washington Post

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