Yesterday, on my way back from the acupuncturist (who gave me a copy of the Dalai Lama’s healing chanting tape, which is wonderful, by the way!) I stopped at Border’s and bought a copy of Michael Pollan’s new book, “In Defense of Food”. I started reading after lunch, and finished it before bed…it isn’t a long book, maybe 200 pages. Wow!
First he talks about the stuff on shelves in supermarkets, how most of it is now food products, not food, per se: it’s been processed to death, has tons of additives in an effort by food scientists and “nutritionism” to add this nutrient or that to food to make it better, but in the process, seems to make it not only not better, but in many cases more fattening and less nutritious.
Here’s a few things I remember, off hand:
First, the synopsis of the book: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
Given a choice, eat leaves, not seeds.
Try NOT to buy your food at the supermarket but if you do:
Don’t buy stuff with more than five ingredients.
Don’t buy stuff with unpronouncable additives.
Don’t buy anything with high fructose corn syrup.
Don’t buy anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
There was one more “don’t” but I don’t recall it right now.
Shop the edges of the market, not the middle: meats, veggies, dairy are generally against the walls. The middle aisles are generally filled with processed foods.
The “Western diseases” (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers) are seemingly the result of western diets. People who change diets often have dramatic changes in their health.
Eat nine, yes, nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. (My one big question to him, who also says buy local, is how in the world do you eat five fresh fruits (he prefers fresh to frozen and dried, frozen and dried to canned, home prepared and canned to industrial canned, which often has additives) in January in Vermont, or rather where do you FIND them?)
He does state that civilizations on various diets, whether they are high fat or low fat, that are traditional diets passed down through generations by mothers (he likes mothers!), the passer-downers of food traditions in most cultures, even diets that are largely meats, are healthier than those who eat a “Western diet” which is largely processed food, soda, snacks.
He also says:
Don’t snack. Eat meals. Together as family. Eat slowly. Enjoy the meal. Make it more than just refueling, but a community event, a family time.
This all sounds very good. I do confess, however, that not being an “all or nothing” kind of person, not a “black and white person” (but big on various shades of grey), I will NEVER be able to give up white bread. I can make homemade white bread with unbleached organic flour, but I hate whole wheat bread, period. Since I only eat about five slices of bread a week, I think I can allow myself this one Western “food sin”.
The other problem I have is that if I eat and cook the way my greatgrandmothers and grandmothers did, I’m cooking very simple with no spices, barely salt and pepper, eating a lot of different foods, but mostly, meat, potatoes and vegetables, sometimes in stews, but mostly separate on the plate, which both John and I love, BUT try and find ANYTHING like this in any restaurant except maybe a diner today! Last night, for example, out to dinner in one of the more conservative restaurants around here, a nice one: my fish had been slobbered in garlic and wine and a few other things, so that I couldn’t taste the fish. My great grandmother, my grandmother, and I would have broiled the fish all by it’s lonesome, and eaten it that way. (We also would have cooked it longer than the chef did.) We also would have cooked the corn, peas, and carrots in boiling water, not heated them slightly in some kind of oil. The popovers, though, those popovers, were delicious. They still haven’t figured out that they could easily ruin them by adding spices and herbs! Lucky us. PLAIN popovers! We passed on desserts. This morning, as per usual with garlic encrusted foods, the pores of my skin smell like garlic, and will for the next three days. Why anyone would WANT to smell like that is beyond me! Maybe it keeps the bugs away, but here in Vermont in January, at zero degrees, bugs are really NOT a problem.
Anyway, I LOVED the book, and his previous book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemna” and Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. Changes are coming. Garden is getting bigger this year. We just bought a second freezer. We will fill both. We will not give up eating meat, but we will be very careful to eat only meat that was pastured, not grain fed. One last word from Michael Pollan: You are what you eat, but more than that, you are what what you eat eats, as well, so watch what plant food you spread on the earth (commercial fertilizers are bad, bad,bad) and watch what food you feed to your animals (ruminants were not made to eat grain as a main staple…I allow them “dessert” of grain, but they eat mostly green stuff. This is hard in winter for the layers, but they get some green stuff in winter, are pastured in summer; same with pigs, which are only here when there’s green stuff to eat.) Both he and Barbara Kingsolver mentioned studies that have shown that organic foods have 50% more nutrients than industrially farmed foods. (Which reminds me that I discovered that for myself with the sheep years ago: that one bag of organic whole grains kept them in the same condition as 2-1/2 bags of conventional industrial sheep pellets. AND, I know exactly what they are eating, even if it is just dessert!) Now I have to apply those same principles to our diet! And at the same time, not use a lot of fossil fuel to go from farmers’ market to farmers’ market in summer to get what we need. The trick, I think, is to raise as much as we can, so we don’t need to “get” much outside the farm, in the food department.
Okay, enough ranting and raving about food for the moment.