Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan

I picked up Pollan's slimmest book in an effort to keep to my '2 books, 1 month' New Year's resolution. But, if that were completely true, I could have picked up any number of tiny, quick reads. I picked Pollan's book because I've heard so much about him over the years. Many people have quoted his lines, followed his grocery store rules, and embraced the concept of "real food" (being aware of what you eat, why you eat it, and how much you eat). I may have simplified his manifesto too much. Oh well.

I find myself annoyed with Pollan more than I find myself enjoying Pollan. He has a lot of ideas. A lot of good ideas. And, I can't fault his efforts in trying to make the masses follow this healthier concept of eating. What I most enjoy about Pollan is his attack on diets and nutritionists. Pollan believes the Western Diet has caused Americans (and now the millions of others following our food/weight disorder) an unnecessary level of anxiety. I have to fully agree.

What I most dislike about Pollan's work is his inability to really stand by his ideas. He throws them out to the reader and explains why. But, he doesn't seem to back anything up. He states, in one chapter, that meat isn't really necessary (the only thing missing when meat is removed from the diet could be B12, but this is easily fixed). But, then states there is no reason to stop eating meat since we've been doing it forever and it hasn't harmed anyone. Why does he refuse to make a stand? Maybe I am at fault because I want him to take a vegan stand. He can't preach the healthy, plant heavy diet on one hand while agreeing to the murder of animals which causes damage to the environment and then poisons our soil (and, plants). Too afraid of alienating a larger readership?

Also, Pollan's view of nutritionists. He takes a bit of issue with the idea of vitamins. Pollan says people who take vitamins are healthier than those who don't take vitamins. But, he says this is true because people taking vitamins are more educated on diet and take better care of themselves. Pollan is dismissing the vitamin as the reason for better health. A hundred pages later, Pollan states one should take vitamins anyway. So, he is being paid off by the meat manufacturers and the vitamin corporations?

I liken Pollan's books to the way Pollan views vitamins. The people reading his books are already healthier people. The information is common sense. And, other than the tidbits of interesting food history, a fairly basic idea of getting back to nature when it comes to food. But, Pollan, of course, doesn't believe he is preaching to the choir. In fact, within the book he states "you would not have bought this book and read this far into it if your food culture was intact and healthy" (134).

To you, Mr. Pollan, I must say... You dismiss diet fads, nutritionist, and food crazes as unhealthy and short lived. I agree with most of what you have to say. But, do not forget that you, Mr. Pollan, are one of those crazes, one of those fads, and probably too short lived.


1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed Joel Fuhrman's Eat to Live. I found that really had a profound affect on my relationship with food.