Monday, June 30, 2008

Book Report

I recently finished reading In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan. He also wrote The Botany of Desire (which I did not read) and The Omnivore's Dilemma (which I did and enjoyed very much). Pollan is a good writer, easy to read and yet full of valuable information. He doesn't shy away from science, although he also doesn't overdo it with statistics. His chosen topics are also important for us in the world we're in today . . . and make me happy to be in Seattle where, for the most part, with PCC and farmer's markets and Whole Foods, I can eat the way he suggests, which is usually the way I want to eat. His catchline for In Defense of Food is "eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

Well, what do we eat if not food? Turns out, lots and lots of nutrients, or fortifications, or additives, including artificial flavors and colors. And lots and lots of corn and soy. Not too far into the book, I started noticing uncanny similarities between what has become a "nutritionist" food culture in the US, and our pharmaceutical culture as well. Basically, our scientists have learned to isolate various aspects of food—protein, fiber, carbohydrate, fat, etc—and have been adding and subtracting these components (and others) from our foods for several decades, working on making the perfect healthy nutrition system for the American people. Of course, we all know that Americans aren't particularly healthy, and have, in some ways, been getting less healthy as this "food science" progresses. One thing that scientists are discovering is that taking some aspects of a food away means adding other aspects is more necessary for health—it starts to seem like having a prescription drug to assuage the side effects of the other prescription drug you're on.

I know I mentioned several weeks ago a quote that made a lot of sense to me, that brought me around a little (before I even knew how much I'd have to be brought around) to Western medicine. It's from Judith Orloff, and what she said was "God was in the laboratory when they created these medicines." I don't believe in God as a being, but I do believe in a spiritual, Universal Force, and I can see that, of course that Force was in the lab when my medications were created. But . . . that Force would also have been in the lab when Snackwells were created, and those aren't good for us. And hydrogenated vegetable oil isn't good for us. And so, I'm back to being a little bit ambivalent about things created by humans. The thing is, they're not necessarily all for our "benefit", just because we've created them. At least, we don't have the perspective to know what's exactly for our benefit and what isn't, or what it even means to "benefit" from something. Maybe being overweight and diabetic is what we need to learn, and so eating a high-corn sweeterner/low omega 6 diet is of benefit . . . but I'm glad to have someone like Pollan remind me that "healthy" is maybe a very different thing.

At any rate, I decided maybe a year and a half ago that I was no longer going to jump onto any "diet" bandwagon. I was going to eat what I wanted, when I felt like it, should be damned. It's amazing how easy it is just to eat what you want, what you think will taste good.

Well, it was easy until I couldn't really taste anymore.

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