February 1st, 2008

reading, activism, writing

Book # 4: In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan

Food seems like the last thing that people who live in the US need to defend. There is an over-abundance for most folks, and while hunger hasn't been eliminated, it's nothing like a society in true want.

But Michael Pollan follows up his brilliant book, The Omnivores Dilemma, with this meditation on what we call food. Pollan throws down the gauntlet, condemning imitations that look like food, like bread -- formally a pretty simple mixture of flour, salt, yeast, water, and time -- now ingredient-filled loaves that fill supermarket shelves. One particular loaf had no fewer than 40 ingredients, some of them unpronounceable.

His basic recommendation for healthy eating? Eat food (the real thing, not an cleverly disguised imitations). Not too much (smaller, more tasty portions, cooked and eaten with care). Mostly plants (lots of leaves).

It's not rocket science, but in the last 50 years the food industry has been making huge profits out of just the opposite. Both of Pollan's books are eye-opening lessons behind the politics of eating and food.