From the New York Timesâ series âBooks of the Timesâ comes this thoughtful, insightful review of food writer Michael Pollanâs recent work, âIn Defense of Food: An Eaterâs Manifest.â
By JANET MASLIN
New York Times
January 3, 2008
Not all scientific study of Mars is about extraterrestrial exploration. Some of it is about chocolate. Scientists at Mars Corporation have found evidence that the flavanols in cocoa have beneficial effects on the heart, thus allowing Mars to market products like its health-minded Rich Chocolate Indulgence Beverage.
In the same spirit, nutritionism has lately helped to justify vitamin-enriched Diet Coke, bread bolstered with the Omega-3 fatty acids more readily found in fish oil, and many other new improvements on what Michael Pollan calls âthe tangible material formerly known as food.â
My food and politics students at Indiana University Bloomington arrive in the classroom puzzled. Something about the course has piqued their interest, but they are hard pressed to see what politics (which they associate, vaguely, with scandal and corruption) has to do with what they eat.
I could take a traditional approach with them, launch right into food security, the food pyramid, Congress and interest groups, and theyâd see the connections right away. But I want them to understand the relationship between power and food as I have come to do, in a deeper, more personal sense. So we hop off the intellectual superhighway for the more leisurely, scenic route.
If you are what you eat, their first assignment asks, who are you?
Whatâs for dinner? Few questions are as environmentally fraught. Bad choices can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease for us, and pollution, loss of biodiversity, and climate change for our favorite planet. Unfortunately, thereâs easy money to be made in those bad choices, and so our food marketing system has made them the path of least resistance.
Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than anyone else, but it costs us dearly. . .
by Eric Schlosser