“In Defense of Food”

July 14, 2008 at 3:20 am | Posted in Nonfiction, Slow Food | 5 Comments

The latest from Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food is not only fascinating, but also a quick read – a relief if you’ve carted around one of his earlier tomes.  Pollan is a noted food writer, and his message is that there is something seriously wrong with what he calls the “Western diet” and what we veggies refer to as “SAD” (for Standard American Diet).  The first half of the book talks about the problem, and the second half is about what to do about it, summed up in the handy mnemonic, “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  (You’ll see this on the front cover, so it’s not a spoiler or anything).

Reading the book is one thing, but trying to follow its precepts is another thing entirely.  Essentially, Pollan asks us to cut out packaged food whenever we can.  He says we’d all be much healthier if we spent both more money and more time on our food, since it would help keep us from overeating as well as introducing us to a healthier lifestyle.  It’s true that part of my fantasy life revolves around having a lush garden, cooking fancy meals, and having legendary dinner parties.  Ah, but that’s fantasy for you.  In reality, my attempts at cuisine are usually somewhat alarming to my dinner guests, who surreptitiously pick olives and things out of their dish and wonder what the spots are on their pasta.  (That’s whole grain!)

America loves her diet fads, and we’ve seen plenty.  In fact, pasta was one of those: if you ever look at a cookbook dated prior to about 1984, there most likely won’t be a single pasta dish.  Suddenly, it was everywhere!  Likewise, you can go to any small, isolated town and find things like hummus, soy milk, and edamame.  Our grandparents probably couldn’t pronounce edamame (unless they were Japanese, of course) yet now everyone knows what it is.  What all these earlier food waves had in common, though, was that they were easy to package, market, and distribute.  Pollan is advocating the exact opposite – that we eat a greater variety of local things, and focus on things that aren’t packaged.  He recommends the farmer’s market and CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture, in which your family helps sponsor a local farm by subscribing and eating whatever they deliver to you, even if it means eight pounds of turnips.

This would be a completely revolutionary lifestyle change for most people.  Sure, we were ready for Fatkins Atkins, but are we ready for this?



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  1. I’m linking your blog to mine. It’s really good. I found you through Hey Lady Whatcha Reading?

  2. I can’t wait to read this book! It’s on my bedside table right now. I’ve been reading others on the same subject. My husband criticizes and says that the “slow food” advocacy is just another fad movement. I disagree with him heartily.

  3. Say it with love! I think disagreement between couples can be a sign of intellectual respect – he’s engaged enough in what you’re reading and thinking about that he wants to discuss it.

    Have you read “Slow Food Revolution” by Carlo Petrini?

  4. I’ve been reading this book off and on – I read the article when it first came out. I’m going to do a review in my book blog soon, I think.

  5. […] 16, 2008 by thisredhead I was surfing around the bookblogosphere today and came upon a review of In Defense of Food. I actually got this book a few months ago and read through it right away. […]

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