Subtitle: An Eater's Manifesto
by Michael Pollan
This book is woefully overdue at the library, but I had to wait a while to get it, so I was willing to pay the fine for me and The Professor to read it, and since it was TV Turn-off Week last week (hmmm, have I mentioned that enough times yet?), I was especially concerned about having compelling books to fill the void left by the boob tube. I finished it Saturday, and The Professor's about half way through it. Soon, fellow library patrons, we will return it so that you can have your turn.
When I first started this book, I could only read it in small doses, because the overall message, while hopeful, is bolstered by some rather depressing facts about the industrialization of our food supply. I was pleased that Pollan referenced, albeit briefly, one of my favorite books and one that stoked my love of non-fiction, The Paradox of Plenty by Harvey Levenstein, which is brilliantly written, funny, enlightening-- all the things I look for in a book. I wish I had had Pollan's book 17 years ago when I read Levenstein's, although I don't think this new book could have been written then. What I like about Pollan's book is that it cuts through the BS about diet recommendations and says, you know what? Forget all that, we don't understand the science well enough and we might never; just make healthy choices and be done with it. And he's quite clear and simple about what those healthy choices are, which is refreshingly useful. Trying to follow nutritional recommendations has never really worked for me, but I think I can follow the simple rule to eat only food that my great-grandmother would recognize as food. That one's easy to remember.
I remember when my inner health-food nut was awoken from it's slumber by my dear friend Adi feeding me sprouted grain breads and different kinds of nut butter on our lunch break from the American Poetry Center one day. Not long after, I started taking macrobiotic cooking classes and got turned on to delicious things like Jerusalem artichokes and hato mugi (the most delicious barley in the world). I remember the first time I ate burdock and thought, How can I have not known about this delicious food before now? If only I'd had Pollan's book telling me, yeah, none of what you've been taught about nutrition is based on a solid enough foundation to put your faith in it completely, I think that would have helped me quite a bit even when I let macrobiotics slip away from me. Alas, I've had to muddle along without it, but now that I've read it, I hope to use these simple ideas to improve my diet even more.
The book is well-summarized by the seven-word description on the cover, "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much." I would summarize his recommendations for eaters in eight words. "Shop at the farmer's market. Plant vegetables. Cook."