February 13, 2010

Food Rules

I just read Food Rules, by Michael Pollan. It's a small book with a lot of information. It's a straightforward collection of simple rules to keep in mind in the pursuit to choose the right things to put in my body and enjoy eating at the same time. Much of it is based on fact and research, and much of it is just the way our great grandmothers ate when they grew their own food and baking a fruit pie meant picking the fruit while it was in season and baking it herself. The crust was made from stone ground wheat not far from home. He suggested remembering at least three of the 64 rules laid out in his book, if I don't remember anything else. Some of the rules I had heard before.  Some explanations opened up some new thoughts on the subject and made many of them much clearer.These rules have been laid out so simply that a few times I thought, that makes so much sense, why hadn't I heard or thought of this before?

Rule #2 - "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." 

My grandmother was a great inspiration to my love of good food and cooking. She was my greatest teacher. She actually had one of the first hamburger stands in Van Nuys, CA. But, her food was not processed in mass quantities. She and my grandfather shopped every weekend and made many trips to the farmer's market in the area. There was a permanent facility for farmer's to come sell their produce back then. A produce man would come every week with fresh produce he sold out of the back of his truck. I used to love it when plums were in season, he had the sweetest plums. We made Sunday dinner together every Sunday. Fresh roasted chicken and vegetables. She was raised on a farm in Tennessee and taught me how to plant and care for a garden when I was a child. Being a depression era child, she never wasted ANYTHING. She taught me how to use the tiniest bit of carrot as a garnish, if nothing else. She thought soft ice cream was a great invention though, but she didn't eat too much of it. She lived until 95 eating her fruit and oats for breakfast everyday and always having fresh cooked whole food.

This one was very interesting:

Rule #8 - Avoid food products that make health claims.

Michael Pollen points out that in order for a product to carry a health claim on its package, it must first have a package. The healthiest food in the supermarket is the fresh produce and it doesn't boast about its healthfulness because the growers don't have the budget for packaging. The big food manufacturers have the money and means to secure FDA approved health claims and advertise the fact. The packaging alone is a clue that the food is more likely to be processed rather than a whole food.

Rule #16 - Get out of the supermarket when you can.

There isn't any high fructose corn syrup or elaborately processed food-like substances at farmer's markets. You'll find food that is alive and will eventually rot. Unlike some highly processed food-like substances containing long lists of ingredients no one can pronounce or has ever heard of and probably wouldn't put in our bodies if we did understand them.

Some of his rules have or need no explanation at all.

Rule #20 - It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car.
Rule #21 - It's not food if it's called by the same name in every language. (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles.)

And one of my favorites that was amusing as much as it is sad.

Rule #57 - Don't get fuel from the same place your car does.

American gas stations now make more money selling food than they do selling gasoline. But the kind of food they sell is highly processed, imperishable snack foods and estravagantly sweetened soft drinks in hefty twenty-ounce bottles. Gas stations have become "processed corn stations": ethanol outside for your car and high fructose corn syrup inside for you.


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