Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: In Defense of Food

Probably no surprise from that crazy lady who makes her own peanut butter than I really liked this book with a big head of lettuce on its cover.  In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan, essentially lays out simple rules for eating by showing how unnecessarily complicated we have made eating. 

I sort of wanted to stop reading at one point, because it was just so disheartening.  The desire to quantify exactly what we are eating in order to supposedly maximize the nutrition we consume sure has messed up our diet.  The low-fat, low-sugar, more Omega-3s, low-carb, fad diet stuff?  Bad news for our health, great news for the food and medical industries.  We know all this.  Eat organic.  We've degraded the soil.  We've degraded the entire food chain.  Yada yada I'll never eat again!

By the end of the book, though, I wanted to gather my closest friends, ship my children off to plough a field somewhere (ok, maybe just send them off to eat more post-holiday junk food if they aren't yet willing or able to cultivate food for the family?), and cook up a storm to eat in the midst of laughter.

I also really wanted a glass of wine and shared platters of gooey, fatty, creamy French food.  Mostly brie.

Though I don't think this book will change what I am eating, I do think it will change how I think about eating.  I realized that I don't generally enjoy my meals.  I'm positive that part of that has to do with having small children - something about commands to cut food, requests for different food, my butt scarcely touching the chair before someone needs a cup refilled or someone else has declared themselves done with the meal by flinging it across the kitchen.  I'm not supposed to be relishing that, am I?

The meals I have with no children - out with my husband or my friends - are simply divine.  Sometimes the food is good, too!

Some days the family meals are also divine. We chat about everyone's day, Bean is satisfied with what is on his plate and there is little-to-no negotiating going on throughout the meal, A-Train isn't constantly engaging us in a game of "fetch the sippy."  We catch up.  We all sit down and enjoy each others' company.

I feel very blessed to witness, every time I visit my in-laws, the sort of food culture that Pollan advocates.  Their house (particularly the kitchen and dining area) is designed for it.  Their family - immediate and extended - all enjoys lengthy meals.  The joke is that we spend the end of one meal discussing the next meal.  People are always hanging out in or near the kitchen.  Cooking, eating, and cleaning up are all social occasions. 

In any case, I recommend the book.  If you are in the midst of an internal food battle or a label-reading dilemma, I recommend the book even more strongly.

But I think the biggest lesson that I took away from it was that eating should be enjoyable.  I already follow Pollan's "rules" as much as my budget allows.  Now I need to relax and enjoy the meal!
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