In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan.
Read by: Scott Brick
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New
Reason for Reading: I’m an Eater!
Preface: Please accept my apologies if this reads more like an essay than a book review. It just so happens I was really struck by what Mr. Pollan had to say.
I suppose one might think upon first observation that this book has a rather peculiar title. Why on earth would food need to be defended? If only we knew, then perhaps Michael Pollan wouldn’t have needed to write this book. The relationship that we in the United States and Canada have with food has become quite perverse over the course of the last forty years. It seems that we, in fact, have no idea what we are putting into our bodies. Have no fear though, the answer to our problems, according to Pollan, is fairly straight forward.
“Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants. That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.” In Defense of Food, Introduction.
And, truth be told, the advice offered in this book can indeed actually be summed up in those first seven words. Beyond the introduction, Pollan goes on to explain the long political and social process that has led to the decay in our relationship with food, and how politicians and scientists have led us to view food as nothing more than fuel for our bodies. We have become obsessed with both how much food is going into our bodies and the nutrient content of said food. Unlike people in the rest of the world, we have forgotten how to listen to our bodies and we have forgotten that all of the nutrients we require to sustain life can be found in raw, unprocessed food.
This is Pollan’s primary point, that everything we eat has come to be viewed in the context of Nutritionism. Not to be confused with nutrition, nutritionists, or anything by any means nutritious, Nutritionism is a concept of food science that operates on the assumption that it is the individual nutrients in food that most benefit us and not the food itself. This has led to us pumping all of our food from bread and eggs to meat and Twinkies (note the absence of vegetables and fruits) with vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Somehow, we have started to think that if we pump a Big Mac full of enough nutrients that we will be able to dispense with fruits and vegetables all together and just eat crap.
And now, as with everything else, industry has begun exploiting Nutritionism at the expense of our health. It’s mind-numbing the way in which we, in North America, have permitted capitalism to exploit every facet of our lives at the expense of our own well-being.
If we want to improve our health, we need to get back to basics and start paying attention to common sense. Why do we need the government regulating our eating habits? Haven’t they proven that they are the least capable of caring for human beings? Doesn’t common sense dictate what we should eat? After years of eating this way, are we even capable of making rational, common-sense decisions about what we put in our bodies?
The audio presentation of this was fantastic. Scott Brick is a marvellous choice of narrator for the book, mostly because he can really do Pollan’s copious sarcasm justice. Despite what a great audiobook this is, I will be watching out for a hard copy as I would really like to have it to refer back to on a regular basis. Make no mistake, this is a must read for anyone who as come under the influence of the Western Diet.
RATING: Hard to Bleat