I'm re-reading Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food", an outstanding book. Any comments on his philosophy?

While I think recently, he's gone a bit preachy...with sometimes with some ideas for some people that do not have access/time/or resources. I do find his commentary on food science very interesting, and valid. Your thoughts?

  • Posted by: Sam1148
  • December 7, 2011


mainecook61 December 8, 2011
Pollan deserves his fame. He has done as much as anyone to get people thinking about where their food comes from, why they should avoid processed foods, and how to navigate a supermarket without succumbing to the bright packaging and empty calories. He did not single-handedly come up with all of this, but because he is an excellent journalist, he was able to write about it in an engaging way. I really recommend another book of his called "The Botany of Desire," which is not about eating (at least not directly) but about the history of four plants, one of which you can inhale. His "original" food book, from which all the other food books are spinoffs, is "The Omnivore's Dilemma," and that too is very engaging, not at all didactic. As an example of truly bad writing in this genre, stay away from Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," which is so self-absorbed and (often) improbable that anyone thinking about eating better would give up in despair.
Sam1148 December 8, 2011
I thought the Omnivore's Dilemma was great!
He does deserve his fame for bringing these issues to the marketplace. I''m still on the fence for 'organic' foods; as my local farmer's market would probably not pass the 'organic' label. But i like the prices and freshness; which to me trumps a 'organic' label.

pierino December 7, 2011
Sam, you hit it on the head in you first sentence. I've attended a panel where Pollan was one of four guests and he's totally in love with the sound of his own voice. I think his thoughts are useful and I care about food history and we are together on that plain. But I don't want to listen to John the Baptist every day. It sends me off into topics like foie gras...
Sam1148 December 7, 2011
I think is message is getting muddled from very 'evangelistic' crusade.

In the Defense of Food, book he makes some very sound accessible changes everyone could make.
"Avoid Food Claims on Packaging" eat more vegetables, leafy greens, meats in quantities to not be major party of the diet. IMHO sound advice. As I was a child of 70's and 80's and when "tub margine" for butter was promoted as 'healthy' it suddenly changed..because it was hydrogenated oils..now we know just plan 'ol butter is much better for you.
It would be more accessible to people if his message wasn't muddled with which I think are the SAME CLAIMS....that a 'organic grown' beef is objectively better than a steak from supermarket. As IMHO it's about not using 'processed' foods..and it muddles the issue for such claims for a carrot grown in a home farm, vs a supermarket carrot, when we have a much larger issue at hand and that turns people off, and the stop listening..and tune out. Just eat more veggies and meat and less processed foods..worry about weather it's raised and hand massaged by blind orphans and nuns later until you have objective evidence.

meganvt01 December 7, 2011
I agree with your feeling that it gets a bit preachy, but I think it is a book that is timely, well-researched, and eye opening for most of America. I think sometimes those of us who are familiar with food, its source, and the health and environmental impacts of every choice we make - take for granted that 95% (maybe more?) of the country has no idea about these issues. I sometimes feel like I am proselytizing people by explaining the benefits of grass fed milk and beef or your local farmers market - or even the problems with fertilizers and preservatives. I love that Michael Pollan is unapologetic about his cause - one that I believe in whole heartedly.
Sam1148 December 7, 2011
Now, I didn't take away from the book it was so much about grass fed milk, or beef, but rather the mass market claims of 'food' packaged foods.

The big thing was change from 'experts' saying Butter was bad, (too much fat) and they subed hydrogenated oils in butter substitute as healthy. And then experts saying frying french fries in high fat was bad....and substituted trans fat as a healthy option (lower fat!) then now, trans-fat (objectively bad) and subing canola oil.

I think preaching about 'grass fed' beef is a bigger step than the more major issues at play here, as that does make it unacceptable to masses as that stuff is very expensive. But that steak isn't the major problem, it's the fries, snack foods, and packaged foods that need to be challenged first.
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