Book Review: “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” by Michael Pollan

While gorging with the family over Independence Day weekend, I finished my latest literary selection, Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.  Referred to me by The Honestly Blog’s resident baseball correspondent, Tripp (whose mid-season report will be coming soon), Pollan’s brief dietary pamphlet goes a long way toward dispelling many of the allegedly unsolvable myths of American nutrition.  Call him the Thomas Paine of the Nutrasweet age.

Pollan’s focus in In Defense of Food is to diagnose and treat the great paradox of the past thirty years: that Americans now spend more time worrying about their health, yet remain more unhealthy than ever.  Pollan primarily blames the industrialization of our food, both in terms of its production and its distribution.  He also decries nutritionism as essentially a bogus science, one at the mercy of whatever food lobby-backed study comes along to promote the next great health food.

Pollan’s solution is embarrassing and deceptive in its simplicity: “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.  He goes to great lengths in detailing how to stick to this new diet, and he enumerates its plentiful benefits to one’s physical health as well as one’s natural and socioeconomic environments.  Yet his arguments are not without fault.  To write off the entire field of nutritionism as reductive profit-posturing is rather indefensible, and the admitted additional costs of eating organic aren’t enough to keep him from guilting you into it with visions of suffering livestock and wilting crops.  The book is also devoid of any kind of concluding section.  While no points are left unaddressed, the book does just kind of stop.

While it didn’t stop me from savoring some pulled pork or checking how Joey Chestnut fared at Coney Island this weekend, In Defense of Food was nevertheless an enlightening read, with some easy suggestions for readers (like myself) with more keg than six-pack to adhere to.

~ T

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