Soul of the Carrot

February 2nd

Have you read Michael Pollan’s latest essay about the state of gastronomy in the US? It’s called Unhappy Meals and is worthy of the 16-page printout. {Pollan also authored Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I took to heart.} If you like to eat and wonder why it is so easy to get fat in our culture, he explains it quite well.
A couple of quick quotes I thought were rather well written and insightful:

“The story of how the most basic questions about what to eat ever got so complicated reveals a great deal about the institutional imperatives of the food industry, nutritional science, and journalism… Humans deciding what to eat without expert help — something they have been doing with notable success since coming down out of the trees — is seriously unprofitable if you’re a food company, distinctly risky if you are a nutritionist and just plain boring if you’re a newspaper editor.”

“The fate of each whole food rises and falls with every change in the nutritional weather, while the processed foods are simply reformulated. That’s why when the Atkins mania hit the food industry, bread and pasta were giving a quick redesign, while the poor unreconstructed potatoes and carrots were left out in the cold. Of course it is a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness.”

Mr. Pollan, if I could invite you over for dinner tonight, we’d have acorn squash, bean soup and a nice salad with soy ice cream for dessert — all in moderation, of course. And maybe a bottle or two of wine and lots of conversation on how to motivate the masses to read the ingredients, grow your own food and eat less while enjoying food more. Consider yourself always invited and keep up the good work.


Posted in
Journal, Media, Public Health
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7 Responses

  1. but i want to come to dinner!

  2. I’ll admit, I fall prey to these rises and falls in nutritional weather that he refers to. Although, with the introduction of the South Beach Diet (low fat, low carb) I feel like my awareness of nutritional value has been on the rise while my weight has managed to fall.

    As dangerous as these fads can seem, it at least it appears that people are still concerned about their health. Despite the repackaging of processed foods (which I think we all know are just not any good) there are the Quaker Oatmeals, Cherrios and Yoplaits out there that are making consumers aware of their nutritional value as it pertains to reducing cholesterol and improving bone health.

    It’s when people stop caring altogether and products stop advertising their nutritional benefits that I’ll be really worried.

    PS. Grow all the vegetables you can – it all tastes better when yanked directly from the soil.

  3. A friend of mine recommended Omnivore’s Dilemma to me last year and I absolutely loved it. That same friend sent me a link to his last essay, which I read immediately. I absolutely love his work, and while I still make the occasional fast food run, I’ve become much more aware of what I’m putting into my mouth, and where it comes from. His book should definitely be required reading for anyone who eats.

  4. The book I reserved from the library that you discussed a few postings ago (Fast Food Nation) is now on tonight’s reading list. I sure am learning a lot about food from you.

  5. I skimmed the article the other day, though I’ve not yet read Pollan’s book. It sounds very interesting. I’ll never wrest meat away from the members of this family (which is to say: my husband), but we could definitely stand to be more conscious of our choices.

    My veggie patch was a complete disaster last year. I’m going to try again, but I’m already a little sad thinking about it….

  6. Thanks for sharing the link to that article. I can’t wait to dive in. His book’s been on my Wish List for a few months now.

  7. Thanks for the article. I’m reposting the link on my blog because I know there’s a few people there that would like reading this.

    It makes me feel a bit better about my recent diet choice too. Thank you. 🙂