delicious discourse

Food Mission – Part 2 & 3

Posted in food litertaure by delicious:discourse on February 16, 2008
Continued from Food Mission – Part 1, here are the second two suggestions of Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food. The first, to refresh your memory, was “Eat Food”.

  • Mostly plants: What to eat
    • Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
      • No one will argue that plants are bad for you (maybe certain types of plants, but we don’t eat those). We depend primarily on plants for vitamin C and antioxidants. Apparently, way back in the day our bodies could actually make vitamin C. However, there was a plethora of vitamin C in the diet of our ancestors that our body did not need to make it from scratch and over time we lost the ability to create it at all. Eat plants. They are good for you and they do not bite.
    • You are what you eat eats too. (This is one my favorite, yet most disturbing find in the book. Like Pollan says, this is a glaring truth that is often overlooked. If the steak you are eating comes from a cow who was fed whole grains [animals grow faster and produce more on a diet of whole grains] and it makes them sick [cows have evolved to eat grass, the leaves if the plant versus the whole grain, which is the seen] they have to be given antibiotics. Cows being fed grains have meat higher in different fats (omega-6s and saturated fat) and fewer vitamins and nutrients than cows who eat green plants. So basically, if your cow ate grains and antibiotics, then you are eating them to.
    • Eat well-grown food from healthy soils
      • You are what your plants eat too.
    • Eat wild foods when you can.
      • I think what he means here is that it does not get more natural than plants growing in the wild or eating animals straight from their natural habitat and way of life. The plants are “stronger” because they have not been protected by pesticides and have grown from wild soil. Also, according to Pollan, two of the most nutritious plants are not ones we find in our grocery stores, but lamb’s quarters and purslane–two weeds. As for animals, game tends to have less saturated fat and more omega-3s than domestic animals mainly because they comsume a diet of mostly plants not grain. Wild fish have higher levels of omega-3s than farmed fish, which I did not know, are often fed grain. Fish that eat grain? What world are we living in? My dad repeatedly suggested we go salmon fishing in Alaska, which for a teenage girl sounded like the end of the world. Looks like I should of gone.
    • Be the kind of person who takes supplements.
      • What have you got to lose? They apparently definitely do not hurt you. However, it can be argued that if you are the kind of person that takes supplements you are 2) more affluent and b) probably already live a pretty healthy lifestyle and have access to great health care.
    • Eat more like the French, or the Italians, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks.
      • This is one of my favorites because I am fascinated with the French philosophy towards food and life! Basically, eat like any culture besides ours. Food is not just about EATING it is about culture and sharing.
    • Regard nontraditional food with skepticism.
      • Twinkies, my friend, are a non-traditional food.
    • Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.
      • There is no one thing that makes a way of eating work. It is the relationships between all factors involved. For example, it is not simply olive oil that makes the Mediterranean diet so healthy and therefore the people healthier than we. As Pollan puts it, “In thesame way that foods are more than the sum of their nutritional parts, dietary patterns seem to be more than the sum of the foods that comprise them.”
    • Have a glass of wine with dinner.
      • Yes, this is what you think, a license to drink—in MODERATION and the good stuff. A margarita make with margarita mix is NOT going to qualify here. Also, if you think about it, cultures like the French and Italians, who have a glass of wine with almost every meal have a different food culture than Americans. They have meals, which are slow and enjoyable, they take pleasure in food and the act of eating with people. Food, to them, is so much more than what is on the plate.
  • Not too much: How to eat.
    • Pay more. Eat less.
      • Quality over quantity. The theory here is that when you buy and eat quality, you need to eat LESS of it to be satisfied. I definitely vouch for this one, one might of the real deal is so much better than 5 of the low-fat, sugar-free imitation.
    • Eat meals.
      • Stop snacking all day and east three meals. A meal is much more than the food. “At the dinner table parents determine portion sizes, model eating and drinking behavior, and enforce social norms about greed and gluttony and waste. Shared meals are about much more than fueling bodies; they are uniquely human institutions where our species developed language and this thing we call culture.” (Pollan, pg.189) My parents had us sit down to the dinner table every night during my childhood. We were never allowed to eat in front of the TV or take our dinner to our room. Even if we sat down together for 10 minutes, at least we sat down together and shared a span of time and interaction.
    • Do all your eating at a table.
      • Part of eating is enjoying our food, tasting the flavors, and paying attention to what you are eating. This is hardly possible if you are driving your car or sitting on the couch watching the latest high-drama episode of The Hills. Take 15 minutes out or your busy day and sit at the table. Use the table as it was intended—to serve meals.
    • Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
      • Need I say more? You are NOT a car. Don’t act like one.
    • Try not to eat alone.
      • “The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from mere animal biology to an act of culture.” (Pollan, p.191)
    • Consult your gut.
      • If you are not hungry, don’t eat. If you are full, stop eating.
    • Eat slowly.
      • There is an organization in Italy, Slow Food, that is dedicated to “a firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life”. Slow Food aims to bring people back to the satisfactions of well-prepared food or well-grown and quality ingredients and enjoy long social meals.
    • Cook and, if you can, plant a garden.
      • I love to cook, but planting a garden is out of the question. I didn’t exactly inherit the green thumb (thanks, Mom). So, I will just have to frequent the sorry farmers markets in Austin to get my homegrown veggies. However, I can cook and I do guarantee a food is that much more satisfying if you put work into it and it turns out fabulously delicious and you get to watch everyone oooooo and ahhhhhh over it.

Food Mission – Part 1

Posted in food litertaure by delicious:discourse on February 16, 2008
I am on a food mission, that I must say, has recently been rejuvenated by Michael Pollan’s most recent book, In The Defense of Food, in which he does answer the question of why food needs to be defended. Food, as Americans know the word, needs no defending at all. We have no problem consuming vast amounts of it. But, food– whole, natural, unprocessed, high quality food– that needs all the defense it can get. This is not a diet book, which are not worth the paper they are printed on, it is a book about getting back to our eating roots, back to the way food is supposed to be prepared and served, and away from the Western Diet as we know it. Pollan provides several guide lines to avoid the processed imitations of the real thing as well as how to approach food and eating. Below is the first of the three guidelines–Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

  • 1) Eat Food:
    • “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
      • I guarantee your great grandmother, from her grave, has no idea what high-fructose corn syrup is, nor does she care. Pollan’s point–all the processed junk flooding our food chain has been created in the last 100-or-so years, so it was not around at the time your great granny was alive and thriving.
    • “Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup. ”
        • To show what a perfect nerd I am, I actually had a great time at the grocery store last night with the above and discovered some great “new” foods! I found out that normal butter, in addition to cream and salt, has natural flavorings. Natural flavorings? Sounds innocent enough. What the heck is that and why would butter need it? The following is an explanation from,“Ingredients such as ginger, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, celery powder, and garlic oil…” Why would butter need any of these flavorings, I have no clue, and it makes me suspicious. So, I managed to find some butter, KerryGold, imported from Ireland consisting ONLY of pasteurized cream. It is absolutely delicious and I promise you can taste a difference from domestic butter. It is more yellow-orange in color too, indicating vitamins and antioxidants!
        • I was also shocked to find the high-fructose corn syrup in my Oat Nut Bread along with a long list of incomprehensible ingredients. I will have you know that today I pledged to start making my own bread or to go without.
        • My last, but certainly not least!, finding was Wateroak Farm’s Brazos Supreme Ice Cream–one of the few ice cream varieties with a short list of normal sounding ingredients (dairy goat milk, dairy goat cream, turbinado sugar, whole eggs, guar gum, sea salt, and natural vanilla). Honestly, I didn’t realize it was made out of goat milk until I looked at the label again last night. Had I seen the “goats milk” in the store, I probably would not have bought it, everything happens for a reason. I got vanilla (to go with some very delicious dark chocolate chip cookies I had made), but there was a wide variety of flavors. It turned out to be a little icier than the ice-cream I am used to (Amy’s anyone?), but was refreshing, creamy, with no shortage of flavor. I look forward to testing the other flavors. If you are interested, here is their website,
    • “Avoid food products that make health claims.”
      • This one is self-explanatory. Take this rule to other areas of life–if someone is bragging about one thing, they usually are trying to compensate for something else. This is also known in various forms as “short man syndrome”. So, if the tortilla claims to be low-carb, it probably means it is filled with junk. Tortillas are supposed to have carbs, they are made out of flour, which by nature is a CARBOHYDRATE. Don’t eat “foods” that claim not to have the one ingredient that makes them what they are. Where is the logic?
    • “Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.”
      • Simple–all perishables are on the outside, meaning they are much more natural than the processed junk in the middle. Think about it. There are exceptions, put the GoGurt down.
    • “Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmers’ market. You also won’t find any elaborately processed food products, any packages with long list of unprounounceable ingredients or dubious health claims, nothing microwaveable, and perhaps best of all, no old food from far away.”
      • Not all are lucky enough to have fabulous farmer’s markets and the like, but if you do have access, I would utilize one as much as possible. Plus, they can be fun, if they are NOT in Austin (there IS hope). One Saturday morning last summer, M and I drove out to Blanco for a nice hill-country drive and to pick up fresh peaches at McCall Creek farms( The market turned out to have some fresh veggies and fruits–you could practically see the fields from which they came from–as well as baked goods, including banana bread, aromatic apple pie, and fresh baked cookies, as well as locally candied pecans. All were made directly behind the counter in the little kitchen. I could see the bucket of dough on the counter. We left with a small basket of peaches, a loaf of banana bread, that was still warm, for the drive, and candied pecans for some summer salads. It was definitely worth the drive as well as the satisfaction of buying local and knowing exactly where the veggies and baked goods came from.