Who needs to defend food? We all like food, don't we? Maybe not, according to Michael Pollan. Corporate America actually prefers manufactured products that pose as food, things like meals in a box, hot dogs, Chex Mix, Twinkies and multi-vitamin enhanced Lucky Charms. These sweet or salty items have lots of appeal, ship well, store well, and make a lot of money for industrialists and their investors. Anything that saves the cook's time and can be branded is more profitable than a green bean or a potato, which anyone could grow in their garden patch. According to Pollan, advertising, super market displays, and government policy have driven American consumers away from fresh produce - what he considers real food. We all suffer health consequences as a result. He explains in his book In Defense of Food, his follow-up to The Omnivore's Dilemma.
As a listener to In Defense of Food read by Scott Brick, I got a bit tired of the story of how industrial agriculture and research science led us to depend on a diet based on mostly corn, soy, wheat, and rice, all raised in highly-fertilized and pesticide-soaked fields. There were some interesting details in this long and sordid tale. However, I enjoyed the final section with his practical advice more. One good guideline is "Never eat something that your grandmother would not recognize as food." Another is "Eat mostly plants, more leaves than seeds." He offers a number of good, easy-to-understand guidelines that point readers to the farmers market instead of the supermarket and to the dinner table instead of a tray in front of the television. Slow food and local food get his endorsement, too.
Pollan's book would be a good selection for a book discussion group that enjoys tackling ethical issues and public policy. With the news that many people are turning to cheap, highly processed foods during our economic crisis, his ideas may not get as much consideration as they should. Still, In Defense of Food should be in most public libraries.
Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food. Penguin Audio, 2008. ISBN 9780143142744