Anyone who knows me will tell you I love food. I mean, I really, really love it.

So it was with some trepidation that I began reading Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” (Actually, I realized at the end of the book that I’d actually read the Young Reader’s Edition, but whatever. I’m not too proud for junior editions.) I followed that up with another of his books, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” (I particularly love the subtitle on this one, which nicely sums up his message: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”) Since frankly the two books are blending together in my brain anyway, I’m just going to talk about them at the same time. Suffice to say, I’m a big fan of both.

At the outset, I was worried: Would I never again be able to enjoy a succulent steak, cooked medium rare? Would I be resigned to a life of tofurkey and cabbage? Would I have to go join a commune and grow my own rutabaga? I mean, no offense, but the hippie look just does not work for me.

Short answer, no. And sort of yes. While Pollan made me much more aware of what goes into my food, he also helped me to realize that I can still eat delicious foods — just with a bit more discretion. His analysis of how many of our foods contain corn (Hint: If it was a percentage, it would probably start with a 9.) was enough to make me rethink the “convenience” of processed food. Add to that the fact that our meat (or “veggie aggregators,” as one particularly witty friend calls them) also consume a largely corn diet, and it’s amazing that we haven’t all sprouted green stalks and little yellow kernels.

Pollan shares many, many interesting facts and analyses, but the upshot is this: If we all went back to eating how our ancestors ate (any ancestors, any nationality, any diet), we’d all be better off. All of the modern diseases (heart disease, cancer, obesity, etc) have been linked to the change in our diets over the last 50 years or so. Not to mention that it’s also better for the animals, the environment and even the economy. That’s because eating “better” doesn’t just mean eating organic. It means eating mostly whole foods (which is not the same as just eating food from Whole Foods), preferably from a nearby producer (i.e. farm), prepared at home, and consumed while sitting at a table with your family. It’s a heck of a lot more work, but Pollan contends that it would make a difference. And I, for one, believe him.

The great thing about Pollan is that he’s not preachy. He doesn’t tell us that if we don’t all immediately start growing our own beans and raising free-range chickens in the back yard, we’re terrible people. He pretty much says, You know what? Do the best you can. And that seems like a reasonable goal for anyone.

Epilogue: Joined a CSA (or farm share) and embarked on a new diet* plan, involving way more vegetables, far less meat and a whole lot more cooking at home.

Next chapter: Inspired me to read more about food, in the form of “Fast Food Nation.”

* By the way, I say “diet” in the sense of “a way of eating,” not “a way to lose weight.”

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