In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Monday, June 29th, 2009

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Reviewed by Ellen Sue Spicer and Barb Jarmoska*

The 7-word Eating Plan

Michael Pollan’s newest book, In Defense of Food, has a simple, 7-word message written across the head of red leaf lettuce that graces the cover … EAT FOOD. NOT TOO MUCH. MOSTLY PLANTS.

If healthy eating is really that simple – why have we made it such a complicated process? The answer, Pollan claims, lies in what he calls “nutritionism.” Defined as “thinking about food strictly in terms of its chemical constituents,” Pollan blames corporations, agribusiness, and foods science labs for kidnapping not only our food supply but our common sense as well. “Nutritionism has created an environment in which we supposedly need experts to tell us how to eat. What ever happened to grandma’s common sense cooking?” Pollan asks.

Since World War II, our food has become so increasingly processed that a majority of Americans are now living on chemicalized, food-like substances that in no way resemble the food that their grandparents and great-grandparents enjoyed. Government regulations allow many of these processed foods to be marketed as healthful, and journalists lead us to believe that everything done to our modern food products is good for us.

And are we healthier because of the experts? “No!” says Pollan and goes on to prove that the nutritional advice coming from mainstream media over the last century has made us “less healthy and considerably fatter.”.

So what can we do to take back our kitchens from Monsanto and enjoy what we eat without nitpicking every morsel that goes into our mouths? Pollan outlines his plan of nutritionism recovery by detailing each of his three original directives: Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.

Michael Pollan is a talented writer, author of two previous bestsellers and a regular contributor to the New Yorker Magazine. His style is sophisticated and witty, and his knowledge of the subject convincing, making In Defense of Food both compelling and entertaining.

Perhaps New York Times critic Nora Ephron says it best, “I have tried on countless occasions to convey to my friends how incredible this book is. I have gone on endlessly about Pollan’s brilliance in finding a way to write about food – but it’s not really about food, it’s about everything. Well the point is, I have tried and failed to explain it, so I end up giving them a copy and sooner or later they call to say, ‘You were right, it’s fantastic.”

Become a defender of food. Pick up a copy of Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food.

*For about two years, I have been doing book reviews for Freshlife’s magazine Profiles, where this appeared. Barb, the owner, co-authored this review. Go to www.freshlife.com to sign up for the daily, helpful, emails called freshmail. You can also order the book from Freshlife.

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