Posted by: Skeptical Moose | December 4, 2009

Food, or The Artist Formerly Known As Food

It is worth a read of Michael Pollan’s ‘In Defense of Food’, describing how we have replaced food with ‘food-like substances’ that scientists have created (is it me, or am I saying food a lot here?!). As we spend less on food, we spend more on healthcare: is there a correlation?

As we are learning all the time, present food production methods are causing huge environmental and social pressures, particularly in the Developing World. The oft-repeated mantra of ‘think global, act local’ (manifested to this end by perhaps using neighbourhood farmers’ markets, avoiding meat, etc) is a challenge that regularly pits us up against the food-marketing machine. Pollan declares that in the US alone, $32 billion is spent on food marketing each year. Yes, that’s not producing or distributing, merely the food ‘scientists’ (in the loosest possible sense) telling us what wonderful nutrition we may find in that microwaved ham!

Some of this we already know – don’t eat too much, avoid processed foods, stick with plants – but it is very well explained and will affect how you think about such a fundamental part of our lives.

Why do we have such an irrational hatred of fats; and love anything ‘instant-diet’ or ‘snack-size’?

Why do we have such an ingrained fear of anorexia, when obesity is far more qualitatively and quantitatively significant?1

I would love to bring more pleasure into food consumption, as they do in the Mediterranean countries (don’t get me started on San Sebastian). Good food, good wine, enjoyed socially: as early as possible in life. For me, it is a massive chunk of cultural benefit that the English have mostly ignored!

The book is simple, informative and not patronising. A few key rules are all we really need, such as: “’Avoid Food Products Containing Ingredients That Are A) unfamiliar, B) unpronounceable, C) more than five in number, or D) that include high-fructose corn syrup”.

If you can’t be bothered with the whole tome, there is an interesting interview provided by the masterful Terrence McNally (listen or download here).

“If your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise it, don’t buy it!” Pollan, 2009

p.s. those who know me will vouch that I love my food nutrition. If one google image search could sum it all up, here’s the boy! Use it wisely and lovingly!!


1To be clear, anorexia and bulimia are very serious medical conditions: it is simply that obesity is just as damaging mentally; and far more threatening physically, socially, financially, etc

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