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In Defense of Food- But Not in Defense of Book.

Posted Jan 24 2010 4:43am

Mmm oats and coffee, now that’s a nice morning:)

oatmeal coffee

And now for your Sunday morning reading pleasure, another book review.

I’m a little late on the bandwagon, but I finally read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I also have not read. You might know him better as the guy who said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

I figured that part made sense, so I guess I’ll read the book and see what he has to say. I can say first of all, you can probably skip to page 147 and start reading there. That’s where he starts to explain the whole eat food-not too much philosophy. Up until then, although informative and a slightly interesting history, he was mostly just bitter.

After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, my brother in law cringes at the word “corn”. I don’t know why entirely since I haven’t read it, but Pollan stumbles upon the topic briefly in this book. He points out that two thirds of the calories in the American diet come from four crops: corn, soy, wheat, and rice. (A lot to do with feeding animals cheaply and government subsidizing, but I’m not getting into that.) That only leaves a third of the diet for everything else! Fruits, veggies, dairy, protein! That’s a lot of good stuff to fit into a third.

I was pretty shocked to read about the decline in nutritional quality of foods like apples and milk due to economizing the business of agriculture. By finding cheaper ways to grow and raise things, more “calories are produced per acre, but each of those calories may supply less nutrition than it formerly did.” I’d love to learn more about that concept.

Now on to his “eat food” philosophy- for the most part he makes pretty good, fairly unbiased (sometimes) points here, but I thought I’d comment on a few.

-Eat food. Yup, that’s a good start :)

-Avoid food products that make health claims. I don’t think so. Yes, there may be marketing behind this and it’s shouldn’t be taken as face value, but my oatmeal makes a health claim- says it’s good for my heart. And it is. And I’m not going to stop eating it.

-You are what you eat eats too. Simple but overlooked. I like it.

-I forget what “rule” it’s under- something about eating how other cultures do- but a reminder that if you adopt a habit from another culture you have to adopt it in context too. (Don’t just eat corn because they do in Latin America- they use it to pair with beans to make a complete protein in a vegetarian meal)

-Have a glass of wine with dinner. ‘nuff said, I’m not arguing there ;)

-Eat meals. 1/5 of eating done by 18-50 year olds takes place in the car. Yikes.

-He says we should go back to snacks being taboo. I disagree. I’m pro-snack. Call me a rebel.

Hmm that’s enough. I’ll leave something for you to read in the book and form your own opinion in case you haven’t read it yet. ;)

I do think it’s a pretty one-sided view, but it’s his book, so his prerogative I guess. I have to say the title was pretty much the take home message, I could have done without the rest for the most part. I was expecting more from something that was trying to hook me with this:

Despite all that, although I didn’t care for a majority of the beginning and I do have a few bones to pick with Pollan, I am interested in hearing what Omnivore’s Dilemma has to say.

Have you read any Michael Pollan books? If you did, what did you think?

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