Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michale Pollan (Penguin, New York, 2009)

Food Rules is a condensation of what journalist Pollan has learned from his investigation of what's wrong with the American diet and how it can be improved.  If this is the only Pollan food book you will read, or if you want to introduce his ideas to a skeptical friend with a short attention span, it rates five stars.  Half of the 140 pages are merely pictures, and the other half are short and very easy to read.

I enjoyed reading through it, but am glad I borrowed it instead of buying it, as for my purposes The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food are better.  (On the other hand, at $6.60 from Amazon, the book costs no more than one of those fast food meals Pollan wants us to avoid.)

From #1 Eat food (as opposed to edible food-like substances) to #63 Break the rules once in a while, following these succinct suggestions would go a long way towards improving most people's diets.  Best of all I like Pollan's relaxed attitude that reminds us that eating well isn't rocket science, nor is it onerous.  It's a basic birthright that we have lost and must reclaim for ourselves and our children.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 28, 2010 at 10:35 am | Edit
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While potato salad and hot dogs don't probably pass any of Pollan's rules, I'm hoping--on Memorial Day--they are covered by #63. I do think we should occasionally praise the mighty Pop Tart, distribution of which gets shifted by Kellogg's to any area experiencing hurricane or flood in U.S. The brave ol Pop Tart can stand up to almost any environment. Happy Memorial Day!

Posted by Eric on Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 9:42 am

What? Pop Tarts cause natural disasters?

Posted by Stephan on Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Hmmm. That's a thought. I wonder if Pop Tarts are good at soaking up oil?

I'm afraid Pop Tarts violate many of the rules, including apparently #13: Eat only foods that will eventually rot. But potato salad gets a blessing (at least my potato salad does), and hot dogs are covered not only under #63 but also #60: Treat treats as treats. "[S]pecial occasion foods offer some of the great pleasures of life, so we shouldn't deprive ourselves of them."

Pop Tarts are fine hurricane fare. In In Defense of Food, Pollan shares the following story:

A few years ago, [researcher Paul] Rozin presented a group of Americans with the following sentence: "Assume you are alone on a desert island for one year and you can have water and one other food. Pick the food that you think would be best for your health." The choices were corn, alfalfa sprouts, hot dogs, spinach, peaches, bananas, and milk chocolate. The most popular choice was bananas (42 percent), followed by spinach (27 percent), corn (12 percent), alfalfa sprouts (7 percent), peaches (5 percent), hot dogs (4 percent), and milk chocolate (3 percent). Only 7 percent of the participants chose one of the two foods that would in fact best support survival: hot dogs and milk chocolate.

So Happy Memorial Day, one and all! Enjoy your festive meals without guilt, not forgetting to take time to remember those who stood for us "between their loved home and the war's desolation."

Posted by SursumCorda on Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I recently finished "In Defense of Food" and really enjoyed it. I hadn't realized how much of an influence the nutritionists' changing rules effected my comfort level with certain foods and shopping. Pollan's advice is common sense and his nudge to trust our intuition and history has had a tremendously freeing effect on the way I think about and shop for food.

I did, however, shamelessly ignore his rule to only eat when eating as I read most of the book during meals for which I would be alone anyway.

Posted by Janet on Monday, May 31, 2010 at 10:58 am

I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And I'll agree that not doing anything else while eating is probably the hardest rule to follow. I'm with C. S. Lewis, who said that eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably. But I need to have a set amount of food in front of me—it's too easy to keep eating as long as I'm reading.

Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, May 31, 2010 at 12:14 pm
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