Audiobook Orgy Part 3: In Defense of Food

usa-001“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” These seven words address everything Michael Pollen has to say in defense of food, but seven words does not a book make, and so he continues on for 200 more pages.

Mr. Pollen spends most of the book addressing the second word: food. Somehow our superior culture has lost its connection to this basic, natural substance of life. In our zealous desire to analyze, we’ve turned food into a science, reduced it to proteins, carbohydrates, fats, nutrients, and vitamins; reconstituted these component parts into processed entities whose value – whether measured by nutrition, flavor, or associative satisfaction – equals less than the sum of its parts.

images-4One of the most amusing, and truthful, lines of the book is, “You are what what you eat eats.” We have to pause, dissect, and reassemble the words to discern their meaning, by which time we realize the meaning’s grim. The additives, supplements, and machinations required of Big Food to produce the bounty that leaves us simultaneously overweight while less satisfied requires tinkering up and down the food chain. What we’ve gained in creating foodstuffs with long shelf lives doesn’t compensate for what we’ve lost: balance, variety, and understanding human’s natural role in the earth’s cycle of energy and nourishment.

imgres-8In Defense of Food is the practical compendium to Mr. Pollens’ opus, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which is both more entertaining but less applicable (I can’t see myself ever hunting my own dinner.) But I can envision following at least some of Mr. Pollen’s suggested guidelines in defense of food:

  1. Eat food, not substitutes.
  2. Shop beyond supermarkets.
  3. At supermarkets, shop the periphery; avoid the middle aisles.
  4. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
  5. You are what you eat eats too.
  6. Pay more, eat less.
  7. Stop eating when you’re 80% full.
  8. Eat meals, not snacks.
  9. Cook your own food.
  10. Eat it with others.
  11. Grow a garden.

In general, I am very good at number 3 and 8, okay at 1, 5, and 9. I could use improvement on number 2, 4 and 6. I’m lousy at number 7, terrible at number 10, and can’t imagine ever embarking on number 11. I suppose each reader has his or her own habits that could use improvement.

From a broad perimgres-7spective, any real change in our food system is going to require a shift in how we think about number 6 – Pay more, eat less. Americans pay less for food than any people on earth (less than 12% of total income). We also have more food than everyone else. But it’s no coincidence that as the cost of our food goes down; the cost to our health goes up. Over the past generation our relative food-to-healthcare expenses have flipped. Although we cannot attribute all of the increase in healthcare costs to poor eating, the collateral cost of obesity, diabetes, cancer and other food-related conditions is staggering.

imgres-1Mr. Pollen doesn’t offer any panacea that will change the course of our unhealthy food system. He simply outlines what each individual needs to do to improve eating habits. In almost every case, this requires that we choose foods that are more expensive to obtain, take more time to prepare, and offer satisfactions beyond immediate gratification. These are difficult choices in a world inundated with cheap and easy shortcuts. But the only way to turn Big Food into real food is with small steps.

 

 

 

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About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, theawkwardpose.com is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog, www.howwillwelivetomorrw.com, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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