Saturday, May 16, 2009

I Choose To Miss the Point

So I'm reading In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollen, and it's very good. It gets at a lot of the same things that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle did, only through more of a journalist's lens--analysis of the history and science of the thing, rather than personal experience and memoir. I am familiar with the argument, but I do really like his writing style, and he makes some specific points that are interesting.

The idea, for example, that food is a complex system, and by trying to thing of it only biochemically, we're missing a lot of the point. Besides all the cultural and sensual things going on with eating, there is the simple fact that food is not a pile of nutrients, but a complex system. We don't have the capacity to fully understand it, so the rules we've created around it never seem to work.

In spite of all this interesting things I'm reading and learning about, I'm going to address this subject from a different point of view, one he hasn't yet looked at. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle had this problem, and until I get to the end and read his advice on how to eat, I won't know if he does, but I'm curious. This is the lack of direct, practical advice.

Now, it's all about advice. "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Good stuff. Even better: shop at the farmer's markets. Cook whole foods, not processed. These are useful tips. What they won't help me figure out, however, is how to do this without it taking over your entire life. When Barbara Kingsolver did it, it DID take over her life--they spend a lot of time canning, freezing, baking, farming. She's a bestselling author; I'm sure she has the time. Most of us don't.

The whole foods movement is, on some level, a feminist issue. In a lot of the families I know, the men do their share of the cooking, but let's be honest. In most of the households in the US, it's going to be the woman who adds baking bread, freezing vegetables, or any other food work to her list of things to do. And whole food is more work; making chicken stock vs. buying a box of broth? Rolling out any kind of dough, from pie to pasta? Even driving out of your way to pick up your food at the farm or the market, rather than the grocery store (where you still have to get shampoo and light bulbs)? All these things are going to add a lot of time to my already crowded week.

I would really like someone to sell me a more wholesome food lifestyle that leaves some room for the rest of my existing lifestyle. I'd even take an acknowledging nod in the direction of the things I do manage--getting my veggies from the farm, doing more of my shopping "around the edges" of the grocery store, eating out less.

What it comes down to is that the food culture in America needs to change, and that's going to have to be part of a bigger change, a reprioritization. And all I can offer right now, in my life, are baby steps. So--I made quiche tonight. Good for me!


JMLC said...

Good for you!
I also think it ends up being a socio-economic issue. Those who can afford the "whole food" lifestyle have both the time AND the money to make it happen. I'd love for someone to tell me how to make it happen without it costing more.

Claire said...

What a great post! I had never really looked at it from that angle.