Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Book Review: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan’s "The Omnivore’s Dilemna," along with books by some others, helped launch the "local foods" movement into a national phenomenon, and so I was eager to read his newest book, "In Defense of Food." The cover says it all: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." It’s brilliant in its simplicity, and it’s almost all you need to know about the book. The other 244 pages left me so bored that I found it hard to stay awake.

Pollan writes to defend food from food-like substances stocked in grocery stores, which include most items on the shelves in the center of the store. I enjoyed his admonishment to eat only "something your great-grandmother would recognize as food." The problem with the book, I think, is that it had its genesis in an essay and perhaps there was not enough meat (ha ha) in Pollan’s essay to warrant a full-length book. I felt like I was reading a bunch of repetitious filler padded with multi-syllable words. Consider this sample sentence, "And while everyone can agree that the flood of refined carbohydrates has pushed important micronutrients out of the modern diet, the scientists who blame our health problems on deficiencies of these micronutrients are not the same scientists who see a sugar-soaked diet leading to metabolic syndrome and from there to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer." (In Defense of Food, p.140)

If the above sentence floats your boat, read the book. Otherwise, I recommend that you read the cover and skip the pages inside. Or you could check the book out of the library and read just the last section, which is the best part by far. Read the whole thing if you suffer from insomnia. My apologies to Mr. Pollan’s fans, but I rate the cover of "In Defense of Food" 5 stars and the pages inside a measly 2 stars out of 5.


kale for sale said...

I read the book from cover to cover because I love Mr. M.P. but I'm with you - the last third of the book was the best part by far. And I haven't gotten over the way he has side stepped and backed off of the food miles associated with our mainstream food system and the effect that has on the environment. But he has been pristine that he does not want to be the spokesperson for the local food movement which is disappointing. In the big picture though he has made a huge contribution to healthier food systems and it sounds funny to say but his book Omnivore's Dilemma was the catalyst that opened my eyes and changed the way I think about just about everything.

PS - I love the smoke alarm story with your son putting them in his bedroom chicken coop. Way too cute. And smart.

Donna said...

Thanks for your comment. For me, the catalyst was "Fast Food Nation." I was shocked and looked for more information, so Omnivore's Dilemma was next. I thought it was a much better book than Defense of Food.