Monday, June 1, 2009

Edible Foodlike Substances

I know I'm a little late to the Michael Pollan party, as his latest book has already come out in paperback. I picked up In Defense of Food at Camp Zama this weekend, and now I can't put it down.

His message is pretty simple: the Western diet of highly processed, scientifically refined and then fortified foods has made Americans obsessed with nutrition as well as sick, and fat. The answer he offers is three rules: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Seems simple, right? And I think it is. Josh and I already endeavor to do those three things (although "not too much" often gets overlooked), but after reading 3/4 of this book, I am going after healthy, whole-food eating with renewed vigor.

Edible Foodlike Substances is my new favorite term. It refers to much of the food in the commissary, or American supermarket: Pop-tarts, Go-gurt, cereal bars with milk-like non-dairy frosting strips. Colorfully packaged edible items engineered to trick our senses into thinking they are food, with long, unintelligible ingredient lists and health claims splashed across the front and side panels. Pollan states that avoiding foods which make health claims can, on its own, improve one's health. Eek!

I'm ready for a paradigm shift. It's not a big one for me or Josh, since his weight struggles and my crunchy tendencies (plus unemployment) have already led us to a mostly whole-grain, homemade, vegetarian lifestyle. I'm not giving up white rice in my sushi when we eat out, nor will I start bringing my own food to dinner parties or preaching in other peoples' pantries. I'm going to start cooking more leaves than seeds, though, and eating ice cream rather than "slow-churned low-fat dairy dessert*." I cooked our veggie burgers with a little butter instead of olive oil last night, and made a big colorful bowl of slaw alongside.

Unfortunately, it may be expensive. It should be, apparently: Americans spend ten percent of our income on food, according to this book, while the French spend 14.9%. Avoiding meat saves us some money, accidentally, but I'm through choosing my fruit by cheapness instead of diversity, season, and plain old-fashioned craving. Instead of taking the train to Kurihama Flower World (a garden/amusement park not far from our house) yesterday, Josh and I** bought some potting soil and improved on the little container garden growing on our balcony. Hoo, I'm excited! Who wants to borrow the book when I'm done?***

*I seriously didn't know Edy's (or Dreyer's) wasn't ice cream until I looked the other day. What the hell?
**That is, I repotted and improved the little garden. Josh carried the soil up the stairs.
***I'd borrow The Omnivore's Dilemma if anyone has it laying around.


Bethanyivy said...

I would love to read it, but I think I'll have to find it in TX. Keep sharing the little nuggets of wisdom His is imparting on your through this book.

Kelsey said...

I'd love to borrow it when you're through!

Nadine said...

Wow, scary.. hey but I wonder, what's wrong with olive oil?

EmilySullins said...

Thanks Beth! Kelsey, you got it.

And Nadine, I worded that really badly. Olive oil is still very healthy and probably one of the best fats available, but he mentions that butter was demonized unnecessarily and it's got some good properties. What I meant was I'm not afraid of using it anymore.

Kelsey said...

Okey I was in the commissary today and goaded by my always supportive hubby I went ahead and bought my own copy along with The Farmers' Market Life Diet - so uh, I'm a dork. If you were interested in either of those let me know!