Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Michael Pollan's Food Rules

I can't tell you how weird I found this post on the Times' Well blog. First of all, I can't bear the title "Well" and think the column and the blog should be renamed immediately. Maybe something like "Good News/Bad News" or "Nagging Fears that You've Ruined Your Body Forever Turn Out to be Only Half True." Catchy, right? But, seriously, in the post, Pollan asks readers for advice garnered from traditional eating habits. By "traditional" he seems to mean 'the little nuggets of golden truth your immigrant grandparents fed you.'

But, get this, he doesn't exactly want to hear about how they taught you to eat. He wants to hear about how they taught you not to eat. For example, Pollan writes: "My own Russian-Jewish grandfather used to say at the end of every meal, “I always like to leave the table a little bit hungry.”" You know what my (Galician-Jewish) great-grandfather liked to say to my mother who then liked to say the same thing to me about food? "When you're hungry you'll eat anything." I don't really think this particular immigrant nugget is what Pollan is after. But it's not just these half-sour but what-the-heck-I'm-hungry grapes that make me think his request itself is odd. What's Pollan going to do with the maxims he's fishing for? Is the man who once grew poppy plants going to write a diet book? Not that there's anything wrong with that. Of course, if he does write that book, I suspect his will be the most food-correct and ethnically-diverse diet book ever.

You know what else I bet? I bet the book he writes, let's call it Michael Pollan Tells You How to Eat: A Food Lover's Guide to Slow Food, Healthy Living, and a Better Planet sells a million copies (which would be great) while its far-flung maxims, recipes and invocations will make you look back at that wedding sequence in Rachel Getting Married as a WASP-y sham of multi-culti inclusivity. Seriously, cue up the Ry Cooder because it's going to be a rollicking good time.


Marjorie said...

love this post. it's an op-ed waiting to happen, i'm only saying.

Robin Aronson said...

thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Robin, I just picked up "The Skinny" again as I am much less skinny these days. I can relate more to the nuggets of truth in your book than I could from my grandmother who lived through WWII. "Eat what you want; don't eat what you don't want," is what I need to hear...not my grandmother telling me to "boil your water before drinking it."

Because we lack a codified food culture, I think we tend to look to other cultures for some potential secret that could save us from certain obesity. But those little immigrant nuggets about not overeating came largely from a position of scarcity. Here in California, I see slender immigrants from food-scarce places like China and India getting chubby on fast food that is available 24/7.

Robin Aronson said...

You've nailed the great irony of the Pollan project. People need a Stone Soup recipe for all kinds of reasons, but it's a little Something to use sayings that might comfort against hunger as a way to ward off indulgence. We have no cohesive culture on any front here in the US, especially food. What I think we might have is the frenetic search for more and the painful and ultimately undermining fear of pleasure. That said, I hope The Skinny helps you feel more pleasure in meals and body.....Good luck with the Spring confrontation with the winter "creep."