Michael Pollan – Quotes and Books on Traditional Diets, Eating, and Food


Michael Pollan is often impressive to me.  When the man writes about food and nutrition, he is fantastic. I have written some pieces for other websites and publications that are critical of his naivete toward economics and government, but nonetheless he does great when it comes to talking about food and traditional diets.

I mention his appreciation for diets on this article about Morena and other Slovak traditions.  Pollan’s work shows that a traditional way of life (like one from Slovakia), a traditional way of eating, a traditional diet are better for us than the heavily processed foods that many Americans have now grown up with.  Below I’ve pulled out a few quotes for you that might be of interest.

Some cultural nutritional advice that Pollan offers:

  • “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
  • “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
  • “Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting.”

About eating alone and on the run:

  • “The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from the mere animal biology to an act of culture.”

About researchers trying to compare culture attitudes toward food:

  • “He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.”

About processed foods that claim to be healthy:

  • “If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat”

About the fact that so many Americans get sick from their food:

  • “What an extraordinary achievement for a civilization: to have developed the one diet that reliably makes its people sick!”

Pollan, while never mentioning Slovakia, even has a bit of advice for this part of the world.

He praises  gardens, a place that so many Slovaks spend their weekends, far away from the cares of life, and where they grow hordes of fruit that they will take back to the city with them for friends and family: “The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.”

He warns that the American government’s method of subsidizing food companies is bad for our health, a process that the European Union (which includes Slovakia) is increasingly becoming involved in:   “Very simply, we subsidize high-fructose corn syrup in this country, but not carrots. While the surgeon general is raising alarms over the epidemic of obesity, the president is signing farm bills designed to keep the river of cheap corn flowing, guaranteeing that the cheapest calories in the supermarket will continue to be the unhealthiest.”

Pollan’s one of the author’s out there seeking to broaden the dialogue about the American cuisine and the American sense of nutrition.  Something that I like about Pollan is that he does not claim to have all the answers, but he is quite full of praise on other cultures that have put together a sustainable and nutritional national cuisine.

Pollan’s an interesting man to read because of his understanding of a broud amount of scientific information, his accessible way of expressing that information, and his investigative insistence of getting below the surface.

You can find some of his books at Amazon, such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Food Rules.  Shop Amazon through these links and they will send me a check for 4% of everything you spend there, whether it be these books or some other item.

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