01. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan (Jan 15)
I’ve been meaning to read Pollan’s work for a while now, and I have this one AND the Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I guess I probably should have read first. But I was actually more interested in this one when I had to choose. Also, again, the shortest book on the list.
Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants. That’s the mantra the book sticks to, and an idea he comes back to more than once. Pollen goes over what’s happened to the food industry over the years in almost painstaking detail, explaining what’s gone on and how things have changed in production, government subsidies, and the science behind it.
A major point I took away from this was that anything that has to advertise itself as ‘healthy’ or ‘low-fat’ on a grocery store shelf is most likely NOT worth eating, and that I should be eating more produce and ‘whole foods’, rather than things that come wrapped in packaging. This is all common sense, but it’s good to read it, nonetheless.
Also, the last lines of the book said something I’d been thinking lately, with my recent turn towards vegetarianism: As cook in your kitchen you enjoy an omniscience about your food that no amount of supermarket study or label reading could hope to match. Having retaken control of the meal from the food scientists and processors, you know exactly what is and is not in it: There are no questions about high-fructose corn syrup, or ethoxylated diglycerides, or partially hydrogenated soy oil, for the simple reason that you didn’t ethoxylate or partially hydrogenate anything, nor did you add any additives.
Since my reading in Japanese is still pretty bad (almost nonexistent), this has been my personal mantra as of late. It’s always safest to just stay home and cook what I know (or what I want to try out). Sure, sauces can be involved sometimes, but overall I think the way we’re eating is probably safe enough. Add to that living in Japan, where even the sweets are relatively healthy, and I think we’re doing ok.
The book itself comes off as just a little preachy, but I guess based on what is being said (and recounted), it has every right to be slightly holier-than-thou.