I really enjoyed The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan when I read it last year and now Maggie is reading that very enlightening and entirely entertaining book. A couple of days ago I saw that Pollan had solicited people’s food rules, or “personal food policies.” Pollan’s request, made via the New York Times, stems from our cultural obsession and confusion with what we should eat. As he points out, this is a rather recent dilemma and one with a solution perhaps based more in culture than science.
How did humans manage to choose foods and stay healthy before there were nutrition experts and food pyramids or breakfast cereals promising to improve your child’s focus or restaurant portions bigger than your head? We relied on culture, which is another way of saying: on the accumulated wisdom of the tribe. (Which is itself another way of saying: on your mom and your friends.) All of us carry around rules of thumb about eating that have been passed down in our families or plucked from the cultural conversation. Think of this body of food knowledge as samizdat nutrition: an informal, unsanctioned way of negotiating our eating lives that becomes indispensable at a time when official modes of talking about food have suffered a serious loss of credibility.
From the more than 2,500 responses he received, Pollan selected his favorite 20 which were then whimsically illustrated by Roger Kent. Here are two of my favorites. The first I adhere to quite religiously; the second… not so much.
On a slightly related note…
The anxiety about what to eat is downright depressing when we consider the reality of “food deserts” in many of our urban centers. I’m no expert on this subject, but I’ve often wondered about the connection between the over-abundance of highly processed and heavily subsidized foods and the lack of healthy options for those on the lower end of the economic ladder. Food as commodity will be found among those with the capacity to buy the most of it; a sad reality that makes the apples purchased from the Bronzeville Community Market taste that much sweeter.