Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Review - In Defense of Food and Food Rules

Before I get to my review of Michael Pollan's books, you probably want to know how we're doing with our experiment. I think we are making excellent progress in terms of becoming more aware of what kinds of food we put in our bodies and where the food itself has come from. In January we ate dinner at home 24 times in 31 days (our goal was 5-6 times a week, so we were successful!). Lunch has been a little more difficult, but we have made some progress (going from eating out everyday to eating lunch at home 12 days in January). I will keep you posted on our monthly progress. 

As for saving money .... Unfortunately I have not learned the magic trick of frugal grocery shopping, so even with all the eating at home we spent about the same amount on food (a little over $1500 for January). My only consolation is that it was, on the whole, much better food and worth the expense.

Now to the reviews. I want to encourage you all to read at least one of these books. 

In Defense of Food is 201 pages and goes into some depth about our dependence on corn and how U.S. agricultural policy greatly affects how and what we eat, for better or worse. In this book Pollan gives scientific, sociological, and cultural evidence for how we are eating, how we should be eating and why. It's a diet book, but not like any you've read before. His basic advice is very simple (and yet not as simple as it sounds): Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.
Food Rules is a much condensed version (139 pages, only about half of which contain words) of the former and focuses exclusively on common sense guidelines for eating a healthy diet and having a healthy attitude towards food. There are 64 basic rules, which on the surface seem obvious. Rules like "Eat Food" sound simple and overly obvious until you realize that most of the "food" in the store and at restaurants is not really food at all, but actually what Pollan calls "edible food-like substances." Not to worry, Food Rules will help you determine what constitutes food and what does not. What I find especially appealing about this approach to eating is that there's no calorie/carb/fat counting, no nutrient obsessing, just plain common sense. But you will have to throw out every vestige of the "nutritionism" which has been insidiously taking over our food consciousness for the past 40 or 50 years.

If you enjoy reading I highly recommend In Defense of Food. It is beyond interesting  -- it will inform you and hopefully make you think about what you are really buying when you go to the grocery store. Let me just say, you're not buying what you think you are!