Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Michael Pollan

Oct 27, 2011 04:57PM ● By Anonymous

Mr. Pollan began his talk by plopping some groceries down on the table next to his podium. He'd gotten them from the Giant across the street, and they contained, he told us, not food, but rather "edible food-like substances." Ew #1.

"Is this food?" he asked. "Should we dignify this with that wonderful word?" The short answer was no.

As Mr. Pollan explained throughout the night, America has become a nation obsessed with "nutritionism." Rather than focusing on actual food, we focus on nutrients. We're so bent on getting rid of "evil" things like trans fats and and sodium, and packing in the whole grain and antioxidants, that we don't even see food anymore.

I know it sounds crazy, but the more you think about it, the truer it is. Even on a carton of organic chocolate milk that he brought with him, there was a big advertisement for omega-3. He pondered how a fish oil got into milk. I'd never thought about that before, and I consider myself to be pretty aware when it comes to eating. Ew #2.

Mr. Pollan told us that we're largely a nation of orthorexics. Americans have an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. I know a few people like that. They always seem to worm their way up to the top of my up on my Facebook newsfeed.

Now, if you're familiar with Mr. Pollan's books, then you're probably pretty well versed in his rules for eating and buying food. If it has more than five ingredients it's not food, shop on the peripheries of super markets, and if your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize it, don't eat it. Things like that.

But, what I thought was really interesting, and new in terms of my Pollan fandom, was his approach to how we should eat food—even though, as an English major, he couldn't tell us what to eat. And, I'm not just talking the "stop when you're no longer hungry," and "focus on smaller portions" type things.

We, Mr. Pollan believes, should eat with one another.

Hurrah! Score one for the social, kitchen-is-the-gathering-place foodies in the room.

He suggested that we should think of food as a community. All relationships between the people with whom we eat, and the people from whom we buy, affect us. Buying at Farmer's Markets re-circulates money into the community, and the more we involve ourselves with one another, the healthier we are. Remember food webs from 6th grade bio? They're ba-ack.

Guess it's the old French Paradox at it again, eh? They eat baguettes and cheese, and drink lots of wine, and yet they're super-healthy. Maybe it's because they view food as a part of their culture, which, according to Mr. Pollan, is just a fancy word for your mom or grandmother. I'd wager a guess that they were two of your principal food relationships. Talk about the top of the food chain.

My grandmother and mom both know how to eat. And, neither of them seem to fall prey to the claims of nutritionists. So, it sounds to me like Mr. Pollan has a point, here. Instead of turning to health experts, we just need to get back to their culturally passed down wisdom, and involve ourselves with one another.

Though, I do like the French approach in particular. Nothing against my grandmother's Czech pork-stuffed cabbage, I just think they've got it going on. Gather 'round your kitchen island, munch on some brie with your friends, and stop before your stomach is an aching mess? I could get down with that.