I teach a Michael Pollan essay in my writing classes even though I don’t think I’ve ever read one of his books in full (nevermind, just checked–I did read Food Rules). I found out about him through his student’s, Novella Carpenter. She’s into urban farming, and that’s kinda how I figured Pollan was too. Both of them study food.
Anyway In Defense of Food is about how to eat and what to eat and what that even means. Food seems like an obvious thing, but in the Western cultural climate, we are among a lot of non-foods. He debunks nutritionism as an ideology based on attempts at food science instead of actual health and well-being. Like why do we even need people or governments to tell us what to eat? Every other species in the world just eats. And before America in the 1900’s, people did too.
Since then the Western diet has spread around the world. People newly introduced to it become immediately sicker and if they go off the diet, they get better. It’s kinda crazy. Highly processed foods, designed to highlight a certain vitamin or fat amount or sugar level, are something that the human body isn’t meant to have. Tinkering with the composition of a food effects it. Food is more than just it’s parts. We really don’t know everything about how a carrot *works*, but we know it does.
His solution is to back away from food that isn’t food. That means stuff with labels claiming to be healthy (a potato doesn’t need to announce that) or a million crazy ingredients, and also not in front of the TV or while driving. Sit somewhere with someone with some food and eat. Grow a garden, shop local produce, eat less meat. Eat less–as in a lot of the fake food we eat is meant to be snacked on and keep eating salt sugar salt sugar. You really have to go out of your way to pick a good variety of things.
Best line: Much more so than the human body, capitalism is marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into new business opportunities: diet pills, heart bypass operations, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery. -Michael Pollan p 135