Friday, September 6, 2013

Book Review - Food Rules, Michael Pollan

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual


Michael Pollan

Category: Nonfiction: Food

Synopsis: Pollan’s understanding of best eating practices are distilled into 64 rules.

Date finished: 19 August 2013

Rating: ***½

I’d been thinking about reading one of Pollan’s books for a while now, just to see what all the fuss is about. But I had zero interest in learning much about the interworking of the body, the biology of digestion and nutrient absorption, or food propaganda. And then I found this book. Since it’s just the bones and not the meat and marrow of the raging food debate, I thought it would be perfect for giving me a taste of his theories. And in that respect, it did what it was meant to do. I got the essence without subjecting myself to studies in human nutrition, horror stories of herd animal mistreatment, and the neurological effects of pesticides.

 As for being devoid of propaganda? Hardly.

You either subscribe to what Pollan puts forth as fact, or you’re skeptical. But for his claim of studying everything and coming to the correct conclusions and magnanimously sharing the details with you for $26.95? Nah, not for me. I have no beef with the general gist: eat more plants and less meat, limit processed foods, etc. I have no beef with this because it’s common sense! I didn’t need Pollan to tell me that.

I was raised on a farm. We ate our own beef, drank our own (unpasteurized) milk, and grew our own vegetables. My mother baked using all-purpose flour and white sugar. It’s how my family has eaten for generations. And my grandparents lived into their 80s and 90s. You want to know why? Because they didn’t worry about food (or health). They knew not to live on Mt. Dew and Twinkies, but they allowed themselves to enjoy them. They didn’t fret over antioxidants and Omega3s. They didn’t go in for veganism or fad diets. They ATE.

So I eat. Yes, I think processed food has become a racket. The fact that everything is jacked up with high-fructose corn syrup or insane levels of sodium (not discussed in Pollan’s book, by the way) nowadays means that the industry has taken over our nutrition for us. And that’s terrible. (Has a can of Campbell’s soup always supplied 60-70% of your daily sodium, I wonder?)

So yeah, Pollan, preaching to the choir, but the fact remains, the author and his ilk are obsessed with this stuff. And the obsession shows through even in these 64 rules. I was surprised with that. I expected this book (if not his others) to present the “facts” as his sees them and then leave it up to his readers how to proceed. Instead, the book spends way too much time telling you what to eat, how to eat it, and how much of it to eat. This heavy-handed approach turned me off. Are adults really falling for this? Shiver.

He also gives the impression that we’re “allowed” to have unhealthy foods, but only, say, once or twice a year. And the impression is that said treats should be an extra half-cup of organic raspberries, never a handful of Doritos. When I read things by guys like Pollan, I think of my 97-year-old great-grandmother sitting in an easy chair nibbling on cucumbers and Cheetos and have a good chuckle.

Still, there were a few “rules” that I liked:

Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients. (pg. 15)

Eat only foods that will eventually rot. (pg. 29)

If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re not hungry. (pg. 105)

Would you recommend this to a friend?
I don’t know. Maybe?

You might also enjoy:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver
The Dirty Life, Kristin Kimball           
The Feast Nearby, Robin Mather
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, Kathleen Flinn

No comments:

Post a Comment