Thursday, June 11, 2009

Food Conspiracies

While I've been trying to settle upon the next novel to be read, I've been reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and finding it highly entertaining and equally eye-opening.

As a child raised after nutritionism became a national pastime, I'd never considered what general American culture must have been like before the food industry started dictating the eating habits of our nation. I've grown up with the mentality that what I hear from the media about which foods are (now) healthy and which aren't is the norm. It never occurred to me to question the truth behind the marketing of fad after fad—low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-carb, high-omega-3.

Now that I think about it, my grandparents clearly did not turn to science gurus and the media to tell them how to eat. They ate the foods they grew up with. They ate what their parents told them to eat when they were young, and they probably didn't vary that much when they became adults.

I haven't read more than a third of the book, so hopefully Pollan will answer this question for me: I wonder how much of our obesity-plagued society is due to the meddling with diets (like creating trans-fats and stuffing everything with high-fructose corn syrup) and how much is due to our cultural obsession with cramming as much as we can into a day, the faster the better, especially now that faster usually means electronically or by car, and therefore sedentary.

Everything I've read so far in Pollan's book feeds back into my desire to live like my idealized European lifestyle. He touches on this subject, too—how many European cultures eat everything our scientists tell us we shouldn't, yet still are healthier than we are, and how health has much less to do with exactly what we put into our mouths, but how we live our lives and how we approach our food. Eating on the go in the car brings no pleasure to food. Eating a two-hour dinner with friends is all about enjoyment.

Which makes me think of one of my favorite Mama Gena quotes: "Pleasure is not frivolous. It guides, instructs, unfolds creativity, educates."

And makes us healthy, she could add. Of course, I feel Americans in general have their priorities upside down, trying to cram as many chores, errands, and work into each day rather than as much pleasure as possible.

1 comment:

TikiBird said...

I've been interested in reading that book, so I'll be curious to know what you think of it when you're done.

What you were saying reminds me of "French Women Don't Get Fat." Although I don't really like the title, the book's point (as I remember it) is basically that it's better to enjoy a little bit of a good-quality food indulgence than to eat a crappy version and crave more and more. Works for me! (The problem is eating only a LITTLE bit! Especially of good cheese...or chocolate.)