In Defense of Food (Review)

April 4, 2010

Book cover for "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan.Title: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

Author: Michael Pollan

Publication Year: 2008

Pages: 244

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Bought from Chapters.ca

I waited a couple weeks to read this book after finishing The Omnivore’s Dilemma, because I figured that it would cover much of the same material. For different reasons, I wasn’t quite right and I wasn’t quite wrong.

Pollan seems to have taken The Omnivore’s Dilemma as a starting point, and then gone on to a slightly different tangent with In Defense of Food. This book moved on from talking about various food chains towards a general discussion of “food” as we know it (or don’t). Significantly shorter than the first book, In Defense of Food is an interesting analysis of what is wrong with how Americans – or anyone else eating a “Western diet” – are eating and what it is doing to our health. This circles largely around a rather interesting history lesson and commentary on our obsession with nutritionism and “nutrients” as compared to the historical dietary traditions of most cultures that involved simply eating whole in-season foods in specific ways.

Like with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I found that this book really affected how I think about the food I eat and the way that I go about nourishing myself and staying healthy. It’s also a rather interesting and informative account of the way that food scientists and governments have gone about changing our eating habits in an attempt to make us healthier, but often with disastrous (or simply not the highly anticipated) results. Pollan argues emphatically for a return to traditional ways of eating and a return to “food” instead of continuing to eat “food products“.

There is a fair bit of repetition in this book on certain key points, but it by no means detracts from the main point. Rather, Pollan makes a very compelling argument for moving “backwards” towards a more traditional, culture-based relationship with food, and gives the reader lots of information, research, and evidence to chew on while mulling it over. The guidelines that he gives in the final section of the book are simple yet useful, guiding the reader to make one change at a time to improve their eating habits and health.

Definitely a thumbs-up. I had a hard time putting it down and, like, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it’s changed my view of food irreversibly.

Rating:

5 Comments

  • Chris@bookarama April 6, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I keep meaning to pick this one up. I don’t know if you’ve read it but Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver changed how I looked at food too.

    • Carina April 6, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      I haven’t read it yet! I think I heard about it a while back on a Nutrition Diva episode. It’s definitely on the list of books to come!

  • Carin April 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Omnivore’s Dilemna also changed the way I eat (meat never more than once a day now) and this one’s been on my shelf for a very long time. It’s one of my possibles for the Read-A-Thon this weekend as it’s fairly short. Glad to see you liked it.

    • Carina April 7, 2010 at 3:45 pm

      It’s also a really quick read, in my opinion. It was a lot easier to keep my attention focused on this In Defense of Food than it was on Omnivore’s Dilemma – I think because it’s somewhat less theoretical in most parts. 🙂

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