“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
So says Michael Pollan and so do I. Honestly, I get frustrated by the continued talk about “diets.” Even though our knowledge about food in general has changed pretty drastically over the past couple of decades, I still see a lot about dieting. When I do read the articles, I’m left with no new sensible knowledge, and all I want to say is: Eat food! I’ve heard people saying lately that it’s not about diets but diet. I like that, that’s true.
I acknowledge that there are people who have to adhere to special diets due to unique and serious health conditions. Still, most of us throughout most of our lives can just eat food. What does Michael Pollan consider food? That question is best answered by saying what food isn’t. He has this great term, “food-like substances.” When I hear that term, what immediately comes to mind for me is: Cheese Wiz. Cheese Wiz is not food, it is a food-like substance.
Sometimes though, things can be a bit tricky. For example, I once worked on an organic farm in California. The farm was located in an area close to large strawberry fields, and one day, the owner told me how the strawberries on those industrial farms are grown.
She told me that before they plant the plants, they secure heavy plastic to the ground; then, they put hoses in holes in the plastic and blow chemicals under the plastic to kill all bacteria, pests — everything. If you’ve ever wondered why store-bought strawberries, from large farms, don’t taste like you think strawberries should, think about that story. If you’ve ever tasted an organic strawberry, from a small farm, you know they taste like strawberries.
Because the chemicals they use on the big farms also kill
everything good in the soil that provides taste and nutrition.
According to Pollan, one of the best ways of understanding what food is, is to imagine your grandmother, or great-grandmother, confronted by food-like substances. What would she make of all the middle aisles in the grocery store, those rows and rows of stuff in packages, and packages of packages?
Depending upon her education, socioeconomic status, and other factors, to one extent or another she would be confused — because she used real food to cook with. She used whole potatoes, heads of broccoli, and whole chickens. Yes, she also used eggs, butter, and sugar, things we have learned aren’t the evils we once thought, or are ok in small doses.
Not surprisingly, a lot of us are going back to the old ways, if you will. We’re shopping at markets, we’re buying more organic and whole foods, we’re reading ingredients and cooking more. We’re eating food.
Every time I read about diets, all I can think is “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” If you haven’t read any of Michael Pollan’s books, a good one to start with is Food Rules. Pollan’s writing is not dry or “scientific.” He’s very entertaining, consider it beach reading. Here’s a link to his website.