Jan 29, 2007

Don't Eat Anything Your Great-Great-Grandmother Wouldn't Recognize as Food

Every once in a while a news article comes along that so thoroughly recasts the world around us that we're essentially not the same people once we've read it. It's certainly not an everyday occurrence, but most every serious reader has experienced this feeling at some point or another (for me, it's usually a New Yorker article).
Anyway, this week's New York Times magazine has a mind-blowing essay by Michael Pollan, the author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma." The essay, "Unhappy Meals," argues that the Western diet has followed a disastrous philosophy of "nutritionism," that food science has been so thoroughly co-opted by industrial food producers that we can no longer make the distinction between actual food and food-like substances.
The essay's scope is wide and expansive, but he does offer a quick nine-point plan for reclaiming the traditional (and non-processed) diet that allowed human civilizations to thrive. My favorite bullet point is his first piece of advice:

1. Eat food. Though in our current state of confusion, this is much easier said than done. So try this: Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (Sorry, but at this point Moms are as confused as the rest of us, which is why we have to go back a couple of generations, to a time before the advent of modern food products.) There are a great many foodlike items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food (Go-Gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Nondairy creamer?); stay away from these.

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