Michael Pollan is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the world of food today. His latest book Cooked, (which I have yet to look at), hit the bestseller lists earlier this year, and still can be found in copious quantity at your local book chain.
Earlier this year, despite my natural aversion to bestsellers, I pick up a copy of Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. On the surface of it, I like Pollan’s book, because among other things, it carries with it an attack on nutritionism. As I wrote in my post on Robert Farrar Capon’s The Supper of the Lamb, I have a preference for writers who focus on food as food before food as a series of nutrients.
Essentially, In Defense of Food encourages it’s readers to think long and hard about the way in which the food they consume is produced. On the whole Pollan does a good job with this task. However, at times the strokes that he paints are so broad, that they don’t give adequate information to help the reader make informed choices.
While many people would suggest that this weakness shows itself greatest when Pollan is challenging the science surrounding nutrition, I find it more to be the case later in the book when he is offering ways in which we can change the way in which we eat. Take for example, his comments on trying not to eat alone. This is limited to one rather brief paragraph that refers to some research. Not only is there vague research information, but the section could have been improved with an example or two of how people eating together affected their overall eating behaviour.
Overall I would describe this as a four star book for people who are beginning to inquire into their food and eating habits. If you are someone who has already spent some time thinking on these issues, I would knock the rating down to three. Still, on the whole its worthwhile having Pollan’s book on your bookshelf.