If I had to name the top three people who have changed my life the past few years, they’d be Rob Bell, No Impact Man/Colin Beavan, and Michael Pollan. All have significantly shaped the way I think about my life and my choices and my raison d’etre. This post is only about one of them.
Michael Pollan created a famous tagline: Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.
It’s the tagline for his book In Defense of Food, which I have not yet read, but hope to. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I have read, is excellent.
Anyway, a while back Pollan started soliciting others’ food rules in the vein of his famous maxim, and today the results of this search are presented in a slide show over at the New York Times. I thought I’d share some of the ones that interested me, and maybe muse a little on my food rules.
I rather agree with this one, perhaps because my father (a physician, though this is probably not a medical opinion) was a big believer in eating real butter. He reasoned that it tastes so much better that you only eat a little of it, and the increased pleasure is worth it. I tend to agree. I use real butter, drink 2% milk, put actual half and half in my coffee which is sweetened with real cane sugar, and tend to like tofu best when it’s not pretending to be something else. My one hangup is turkey bacon. I do love real bacon, and often use it in my cooking, particularly now that I’m cooking mostly veggie food, just using the bacon for flavor. BUT. If eaten alone as a breakfast food, turkey bacon is my choice over real bacon most of the time. I think it goes back to texture issues related to a childhood refusal to eat anything with actual fat attached, because I hate the gummy squishy way fat feels in my mouth. So, turkey bacon excluded, I’m all about eating real food.
This one is harder for me. Outside of insects and arachnids and snakes, I’m not really willing to kill anything. However, the chapters of The Omnivore’s Dilemma in which Pollan reasoned out his views on eating really resonated for me, and helped me solidify my thougths on my choices as an occasional meat eater. I’m all about eating less meat for environmental, world hunger, and health reasons. I’m all about being more selective about the meat I do eat, for reasons related to humane/ethical treatment of animals and also for reasons related to food safety. I eat meat. I probably wouldn’t be willing to slaughter an animal (except maybe a chicken) myself.
WHAT? This one is insane. Sometimes I skip a main course just so I can have multiple helpings of sides. Sometimes I’d rather have more dinner than dessert. Sometimes I just want seconds, darnit.
True confession: despite all the home grown, home cooked organic goodness I grew up on, we ate most of our dinners, as a family, on TV trays while watching “Wheel of Fortune.” At one point I was not allowed to solve the puzzles out loud any more because no one else in the family ever got a chance. I could get defensive and say that “family dinner time” was less important to us as “sit around and talk time” because my mom stayed home and my dad worked a schedule that also had him home a lot, so we had lots of other times to talk. But yeah, we ate in front of the TV most nights. Now that I’m an adult, I’d say it’s 50/50. We eat some meals on TV tray, and we eat others in the kitchen (the only place we have a table to eat on) or at our picnic table in the back yard. I’d say it’s probably best to not have distractions when I eat, so I can focus on eating and enjoying the meal, so I can stop when I’m full and not keep eating on mindlessly without realizing I’m past my limit. Ideally, to me, meals should be shared with another person, or with a book, not so much with the TV. But some nights you just want to veg out while you eat your veg. And that’s OK too.
I like this one. Food rules make what is normally a pleasurable experience an unending roller coaster of neuroses and hang ups. Perhaps the best food rule of all is not to have any hard and fast rules. I eat as locally, organically, sustainably, and fair trade-y as possible most of the time, because I find it a very enjoyable and holistic way to eat. That doesn’t mean I won’t crave Chic-Fil-A or a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich from time to time. Or that some days I won’t have microwave popcorn for dinner. Those things can also be very enjoyable ways to eat. There’s no sense feeling bad about those “guilty pleasures.” Making something “bad” or “off limits” is generally a sure fire way to make me want it all the more. So maybe the best food rule is no rules, just thoughtfulness.
All images in this post are via the New York Times slideshow linked above.
In other food related news, the New York Times piece I blogged about in my post It’s The Jungle Out There has had some very positive effects on food policy already. You can read all about it here and here.