Because I decided to involve myself in a Facebook group lauding the meme going around called “Ten Books That Changed My Life”, I came back here to my blog to call to mind books I’ve reviewed here – these are the ones of the many I read every month that have stuck with me and had enough of an impact that I wanted to record my thoughts about them.
In doing so, I found a couple of books I started to write about, but for whatever reason, never finished. Hmmm. Lazy, probably. But I thought I’d finally finish and publish the below, begun in June of 2010 (!)
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I thought I knew quite a bit about proper nutrition, being a vegetarian, having known a lot of phenomenal cooks, and basically, having been an eater for …well, a lot of years. Reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food I’m finding out how wrong, and *deluded*, I’ve been.
The thing I didn’t realize, and perhaps you don’t either if you haven’t already read this book, is just how much of public “knowledge” and “common wisdom” around nutrition actually falls into the category of what Pollan calls “nutritionism” – an ideology around thinking about food, which is not the same as “nutrition”, which as Merriam-Webster tells us, is “the sum of the processes by which an animal or plant takes in and utilizes food substances.”
I am blown away by how much the food manufacturing industry has succeeded in directing our thinking about food, beginning with re-labeling food in terms of its macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fats. I think, for instance, of the TV show, Top Chef, where, during what they call the “quick-fire challenge”, the contestants are presented with shelves or tables full of various foods and told what they have to make in something like 15-30 minutes – and they always talk about “choosing a protein”, as opposed to naming the meat or plant food representing a protein which would fit into the recipe they want to make.
It’s in the interest of the food industry in America to make sure we eat more and more highly-processed foods, and less and less “natural”, or raw, or straight-from-the-farm foods – the latter really don’t make them much money, after all, whereas the former does. Have you ever noticed, for example, that nearly all the coupons you find in the supermarket flyers and Sunday papers are for boxed, packaged, and processed foods? Not ONE says “get 50 cents off a head of broccoli”!
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Well, here it is, more than four years later, and little has changed in terms of what I wrote above. The food manufacturing industry is still trying to pull the wool over our eyes, the FDA is still in the food industry’s pocket, and the junk food still grabs our taste buds and addictive centers and pulls us in.
This book, and Michael Pollan’s others are all very worth your time (I especially loved The Botany of Desire). His axiom to “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” is more important than ever. Read his books, enjoy the knowledge he shares, and eat some good food!