1/17/11

Defending Food


Since my senior year of high school, I've been fascinated with the study of nutrition and its history in both Western and Eastern cultures. I believe that what you put into your body has a profound effect on how you feel and how well you perform throughout the day. Your level of discipline and adherence to the modern rules of nutritionism (eating organic, reading labels, etc.), along with how frequently you exercise, will indicate the overall health of your immune system, metabolism, brain functioning, bone density... the list goes on and on. I believe these things. I follow the rules of health and fitness to the best of my ability as a college student, working girl and newlywed.

So when Michael Pollan wrote the following words, it caught my attention: "Nutritionism is, in a sense, the official ideology of the Western diet and so cannot be expected to raise radical or searching questions about it" (Pollan 11).

I had read Pollan before - his Food Rules is a brief list of commandments for the Western consumer. The list has been expanded upon in In Defense of Food with introductions on the history of nutrition, its major obesity-causing problems and what the American public should be looking for when purchasing food. While I was first skeptical of his sweeping statements and simplistic approach, Pollan proved himself to be potentially the greatest food critic to greet the 21st century - and he greets it with a heavy handed wake-up call.

Consider the following from In Defense of Food:
"What would happen if we were to start thinking about food as less of a thing and more of a relationship?" (102)
"If Ames [biochemist] is right, then a food system organized around quantity rather than quality has a destructive feedback loop built into it, such that the more low-quality food one eats, the more one wants to eat, in a futile - but highly profitable - quest for the absent nutrient." (124)
"Diabetes is well on its way to becoming normalized in the West - recognized as a whole new demographic and so a major marketing opportunity. Apparently it is easier, or at least a lot more profitable, to change a disease of civilization into a lifestyle than it is to change the way that civilization eats." (136)
"Eat more like the French. Or the Italians. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks." (173)

The last is my favorite, as I love all but Indian food. And, knowing this, my grandmother made us two French meals while we visited their home this weekend. As always, it was a treat. Check Something Delicious in the next day or so for Grandmum's wonderful recipes!

In the meantime, read In Defense of Food. It changed my views of nutritionism and changed my definition of what constitutes "food".

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