In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

By Michael Pollan
Publisher:Penguin (Non-Classics), (4/28/2009)

Average Rating:
5.00 out of 5 (1 Clubie's ratings)

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The companion volume to The New York Times bestseller The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Michael Pollan’s lastbook , The Omnivore’s Dilemma, launched a national conversation about the American way of eating; now In Defense of Food shows us how to change it, one meal at a time. Pollan proposes a new answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.
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E's Reads's thoughts on "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto"
updated on:9/3/2009

6/09 I've mentioned it before-- I love food and environmental books-- put them together with Michael Pollen-- love it!! So interesting (and sad) that our food is so controlled and not in a good way.


"In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto"
By Michael Pollan

Average Rating:
5.00 out of 5 (1 Clubie's ratings)

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The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

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Amazon Significant Seven, January 2008: Food is the one thing that Americans hate to love and, as it turns out, love to hate. What we want to eat has been ousted by the notion of what we should eat, and it's at this nexus of hunger and hang-up that Michael Pollan poses his most salient question: where is the food in our food? What follows in In Defense of Food is a series of wonderfully clear and thoughtful answers that help us omnivores navigate the nutritional minefield that's come to typify our food culture. Many processed foods vie for a spot in our grocery baskets, claiming to lower cholesterol, weight, glucose levels, you name it. Yet Pollan shows that these convenient "healthy" alternatives to whole foods are appallingly inconvenient: our health has a nation has only deteriorated since we started exiling carbs, fats--even fruits--from our daily meals. His razor-sharp analysis of the American diet (as well as its architects and its detractors) offers an inspiring glimpse of what it would be like if we could (a la Humpty Dumpty) put our food back together again and reconsider what it means to eat well. In a season filled with rallying cries to lose weight and be healthy, Pollan's call to action—"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."--is a program I actually want to follow. --Anne Bartholomew

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition. 

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Pollan provides another shocking yet essential treatise on the industrialized Western diet and its detrimental effects on our bodies and culture. Here he lays siege to the food industry and scientists' attempts to reduce food and the cultural practices of eating into bite-size concepts known as nutrients, and contemplates the follies of doing so. As an increasing number of Americans are overfed and undernourished, Pollan makes a strong argument for serious reconsideration of our eating habits and casts a suspicious eye on the food industry and its more pernicious and misleading practices. Listeners will undoubtedly find themselves reconsidering their own eating habits. Scott Brick, who narrated Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, carries forward the same tone and consistency, thus creating a narrative continuity between the two books. Brick renders the text with an expert's skill, delivering well-timed pauses and accurate emphasis. He executes Pollan's asides and sarcasm with an uncanny ability that makes listening infinitely better than reading. So compelling is his tone, listeners may have trouble discerning whether Brick's conviction or talent drives his powerful performance. 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition. 

From The Washington Post

Reviewed by Jane Black

In his 2006 blockbuster, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan gave voice to Americans' deep anxiety about food: What should we eat? Where does our food come from? And, most important, why does it take an investigative journalist to answer what should be a relatively simple question?

In the hundreds of interviews Pollan gave following the book's publication, the question everyone, including me, asked him was: What do you eat? It was both a sincere attempt to elicit a commonsense prescription and, when it came from cynical East Coast journalists, a thinly veiled attempt to trap the author. "Oh! So he shops at farmers markets," we snipped enviously to one another. "Well, easy for him out there in Berkeley where they feast on peaches and cream in February! What about the rest of us?"

In Defense of Food is Pollan's answer: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

For some, that instruction will seem simple, even obvious. (It will seem especially so to those who read Pollan's lengthy essay on the same topic in the New York Times magazine last year.) But for most people, those seven little words are a declaration of war on the all-American dinner. Goodbye, 12-ounce steak. Instead, how about three ounces of wild-caught salmon served with roasted butternut squash and a heap of sautéed kale? For many, following the rules may not be so simple after all.

Yet in this slim, remarkable volume, Pollan builds a convincing case not only against that steak dinner but against the entire Western diet. Over the last half-century, Pollan argues, real food has started to disappear, replaced by processed foods designed to include nutrients. Those component parts, he says, are understood only by scientists and exploited by food marketers who thrive on introducing new products that hawk fiber, omega-3 fatty acids or whatever else happens to be in vogue.

Pollan calls it the age of "nutritionism," an era when nutrients have been elevated to ideology, resulting in epidemic rates of obesity, disease and orthorexia, a not yet official name for an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. "What we know is that people who eat the way we do in the West today suffer substantially higher rates of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity than people eating any number of different traditional diets," he writes. "When people come to the West and adopt our way of eating, these diseases soon follow."

Part of Pollan's answer to improving our health is going back to traditional foods and ways of eating: Eat leaves, not seeds. Steer clear of any processed food with a health claim. And for goodness sake, don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

But equally important is changing the way we relate to food. Pollan argues that we've traded in our food culture -- a.k.a. eating what Mom says to eat -- for nutritionism, which puts experts in charge and makes the whole question of what to eat so confusing in the first place. Indeed, Pollan makes a strong case that the "French paradox" -- the way the French stay thin while gobbling triple crème cheese and foie gras -- isn't a paradox at all. The French have a different relationship with food. They eat small portions, don't come back for seconds and spend considerably more time enjoying their food -- an eminently sensible approach.

In Pollan's mind, trading quantity for quality and artificial nutrients for foods that give pleasure is the first step in redefining the way we think about food. The rules here: Pay more, eat less. Eat meals, not snacks. Cook your own meals and, if you can, plant a garden.

Each of the rules is well supported -- and only occasionally with the scientific mumbo-jumbo that Pollan disparages. But what makes Pollan's latest so engrossing is his tone: curious and patient as he explains the flaws in epidemiological studies that have buttressed nutritionism for 30 years, and entirely without condescension as he offers those prescriptions Americans so desperately crave.

That's no easy feat in a book of this kind. What should we eat? The answer is here. Now we just have to see if Americans are willing to follow good advice.

Copyright 2008, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. 

From Bookmarks Magazine
Berkeley, California-based journalism professor and New York Times Magazine contributing writer Michael Pollan, whose previous work on the subject includes The Botany of Desire and the best-selling The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has placed himself at the forefront of food writing. He preaches a back-to-basics approach and a close questioning of the avalanche of information that has come out of our diet-obsessed society. Despite the accusations of a few critics as being a little alarmist, a little elitist, and a little obvious (not everyone has the access to or the resources to eat the food Pollan suggests), the book encourages a simple approach to eating that will strike a chord with readers weary of conflicting information and unrealistic weight-loss and wellness programs. So the message of the book and its well-written delivery can’t be faulted. The question is, do we need to hear it all again?
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. 

From Booklist
Expanding on a theme from his popular The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2007), Pollan mounts an assault on a reigning theory of the relationship between food and health. For Pollan, “nutritionism” offers too narrow a view of the role of eating, confining its benefits solely to food’s chemical constituents. This has resulted in an unnatural anxiety about the things we humans eat. To counteract this, Pollan appeals to tradition and common sense. The “Western diet,” with its focus on meat as the principal food, produces cardiovascular problems, and nutritionists’ attempts to correct this with a high-carbohydrate and sugar regimen has served only to spawn a generation of obese diabetics. Although Pollan doesn’t advocate eliminating meat or any other whole food, he wants to place vegetables and fruits in the center of things, reassigning meat to the status of a side dish. Given the continuing fascination with Pollan’s earlier work, this smaller tome will surely generate heavy demand. --Mark Knoblauch --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. 

“ Michael Pollan [is the] designated repository for the nation’s food conscience.”
—Frank Bruni, The New York Times

“ A remarkable volume . . . engrossing . . . [Pollan] offers those prescriptions Americans so desperately crave.” 
—Jane Black, The Washington Post

“ In Defense of Food is written with Pollan’s customary bite, ringing clarity and brilliance at connecting the dots.” 
The Seattle Times 

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Michael Pollan is the author of four previous books, including The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, both New York Timesbestsellers. A longtime contributor to The New York Times, he is also the Knight Professor of Journalism at Berkeley. 

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