Posts Tagged ‘Michael Pollan’

Monday Medley

What we read while learning about quad strains…

Monday Medley

What we read while Boston mourned…

Monday Medley

What we read while trying to remember who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year…


  • Putting aside our affection for superlatives, we’d prefer it if Esquire had named Kate Beckinsale just “Among the Sexier Women Alive” instead of going all-out. Nevertheless, she knows how to rise our lycans, if you know what we mean. (And no, we can’t believe that was the THIRD Underworld movie and there’s already a fourth in production, either.)
  • Speaking of sexiest thises and thats, check out Deadspin/Jeff Pearlman’s humorous account of how Chiefs’ quarterback Elvis Grbac was accidentally named People‘s “Sexiest Athlete.”  The last sentence of People entry was “His personality makes him attractive.” Unfortunately (and somewhat surprisingly), Tim did not spot a single Grbac jersey during his adventure at Arrowhead Stadium earlier last weekend.
  • And the final word on that Yanks-Twins series: This is the real reason Minnesota was so upset about Phil Cuzzi’s blown call down the left-field line. Who knows what Jason Kubel could have done with Mauer on second?

In Defense of the Food Network

bobby-flay-iron-chef-americaMichael Pollan, acclaimed author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food (which I reviewed), offers a thought-provoking critique of TV food culture in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine. There are many different components to Pollan’s argument (I wouldn’t be surprised if a book on the subject is forthcoming) but the gist of it is that the Food Network and TV food programs generally encourage a culture of eating and spectating, as opposed to actually cooking at home, and that this cultural shift is—on the whole—harmful. I will argue that TV food programs are not only valuable as a form of diversionary entertainment but also that they have the potential to be inspirational.

Let me first present Pollan’s own words:

“We learn things watching these cooking competitions, but they’re not things about how to cook. There are no recipes to follow; the contests fly by too much too fast for viewers to take in any practical tips; and the kind of cooking practices in prime time is far more spectacular than anything you would ever try at home. No, for anyone hoping to pick up a few dinnertime tips, the implicit message of today’s prime-time cooking shows is, Don’t try this at home. If you really want to eat this way, go to a restaurant. Or as a chef friend put it when I asked him if he thought I could learn anything about cooking by watching the Food Network, ‘How much could you learn about playing basketball by watching the NBA?’”

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A Review of “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto”

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food stays true to its subtitle: It justifies a no-nonsense guide to eating. The book’s seven-word slogan encapsulates Pollan’s prescription: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Of course, “food” strays from the standard definition of food. For Pollan, what was around and recognizable as food during the life of your great-grandmother (or your great-great grandmother, depending on your age) constitutes food. Processed foodstuffs simply are not food.84

Pollan doesn’t reach this conclusion until the third part of the book. He spends much of the first two parts critiquing the science of nutritionism that has lead us Westerners to consume these deleterious processed foods. Pollan rejects the idea that when it comes to food, the whole is the sum of its parts. Injecting nutrients into otherwise unhealthy foods does not necessarily make them healthy. Nutritionism is an imperfect science, and Pollan relays study after study that show that what nutritionists initially thought was healthy actually is not: The demise of the “lipid hypothesis” is one such example. Moreover, even though micronutrients (i.e. vitamins) are added to processed foods, they usually co-exist along with harmful additives and the much-maligned corn and soybean oils. Processed food and the Western diet more generally, claims Pollan, are what have led to the spike in Western ailments such as heart disease and diabetes starting in the mid-20th century. Pollan argues that there is something about eating proper whole foods that confers us immense health benefits even if isn’t clear what exactly is causing these benefits. His seven-word mantra is his response to these facts and the gist of his argument.

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