Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (Penguin) focuses on the critical discussion of what to eat, what not to eat, and how to reclaim our health and happiness as eaters: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’
Pollan is a long-time contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and teaches journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. In his earlier best seller, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he convincingly showed that we are indeed what we eat — and what we eat remakes the world — sparking vital public dialogue about the American way of eating and the ecological and ethical dimensions of our food choices.
Humans used to know how to eat well, Pollan argues. But the balanced dietary lessons that were once passed down through generations have been confused, complicated and distorted by food industry marketers, nutritional scientists, and journalists-all of whom have much to gain from our dietary confusion. As a result, we face today a complex culinary landscape dense with bad advice and foods that are not real.
Edible foodlike substances are often packaged with labels bearing health claims that are typically false or misleading, he says. Real food is fast disappearing from the marketplace, to be replaced by nutrients, and plain old eating by an obsession with nutrition that is, paradoxically, ruining our health, not to mention our meals. Pollan’s sensible and decidedly counterintuitive advice is: “Don’t eat anything that your great-great grandmother would not recognize as food.”
In Defense of Food affirms the joy of eating, while suggesting that if we would pay more for better, well-grown food, but buy less of it, we’ll benefit ourselves, our communities and the environment at large. In looking toward traditional diets the world over, as well as the foods our families-and regions-historically enjoyed, we can recover a more balanced, reasonable, and pleasurable approach to food. Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we might start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives and enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy.
Michael Pollan was interviewed at Kentucky Author Forum by Michael Shnayerson, contributing editor, Vanity Fair. Shnayerson has written on subjects ranging from politics to arts to the environment, including contributing three stories to Vanity Fair’s 2nd “green” issue. His newest book is Coal River, which grew out of a magazine article. In West Virginia, reporting for Vanity Fair, Shnayerson found a gripping story on the true cost of coal and the activists working to save their homes and communities from the devastation of mountaintop removal mining.