Author: Michael Pollan
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Publication Date: 2008
Genre: Non-Fiction, Food
Goodreads | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk
I didn't know too much about this book. I'd seen it on a couple of blogs and so decided to grab it from the local library as I'm always keen to try new and interesting non-fiction. I'm happy to say that this one didn't disappoint. With it's manifesto "Eat Foods, Not Much, Mostly Plants", In Defense of Food is an investigation into the downfalls of the western diet and how we can turn our backs on the now over-abundance of artificial processed foods that have become the staple of the western diet.
Although the book is specifically targeted at the American diet there is a resonance in all western countries as you can certainly see similarities with the diets in Britain, New Zealand (and I would assume Australia although I have never lived there only visited).
I'll be honest, there is nothing ground breaking in this book. All of the suggestions towards the end of the book aren't new and are certainly mantras that I already try and live by, for example, don't eat foods whose ingredients are not recognisable or don't eat anything that doesn't go off.
But I think the reason I liked this book so much is that it wasn't a diet book which told you to eat this and not eat that. It was an investigation into the western diet and it's effects, the history of it, what happens when other cultures start to adopt the western diet and most interestingly the concept of 'nutritionism' where we have become so consumed with individual nutrients (folic acid, vit C, omega 3s) that we have forgotten to take nutrients in the context of the food we eat them. In the words of Pollen 'food is more than the sum of it's nutrients'.
It really is a fascinating book and I would highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in the history of food, or wants an informative look into the western diet.
Interestingly I went to a raising chickens course last night run by my local community which encourages more sustainable urban living and the woman who ran the course was talking about chicken feed. One of the things she mentioned was white bread and white rice. She explained that they were just fillers and had no nutrition and that humans shouldn't eat so much of it let alone give it to your chickens. She explained how chickens were omnivores and needed a variety of food but mainly they needed a variety of plants, worms, bugs and whole grains. And immediately I thought of this book as Pollen also touches on the issue with industrialised food production where our animals are fed a limited diet which in turn reduces the nutrition that they can provide us too; either through their eggs or through their meat. It was a real eye opener to see some of the things discussed in the book in practice in the community.