Michael Pollan: Chewed Up and Spit Out

Oh boy. Pollan's new book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, gets eviscerated in this review by James McWilliams at the Texas Observer (Laura Shapiro at Slate isn't a fan either, though offers some hope in her review; an issue of the journal Gastronomica last summer also called out Pollan on some features of his approach and message). I haven't read the new book, so this link is neither an endorsement of McWilliams's review nor of Pollan's text. But, wow, the review is a fun read.


The opening line to Pollan's new book is this: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

McWilliams's opening line is this: "Big claims. Not too much support. Mostly unconvincing."

Janet Maslin at the Times is far more receptive to Pollan's manifesto. She calls the book a "tough, witty, cogent rebuttal to the proposition that food can be reduced to its nutritional components without the loss of something essential." (On the other side of the country, Pollan's side, the LA Times offers a neutral, moderate review.)

I won't pull out quotes from the reviews, since I can't comment on how close to the mark they are, but hope you are entertained by reading them in full and coming back with your own points.

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If the book continues as his NYT Mag article, it should be quite interesting.

He basically proposes that we are focused on "nutritionism"---breaking down foods intellectually into their components and then slapping components back together haphazzardly. He argues that actual food is the best,well, food. It should be a good read.

After having read Omnivore's Dilemma, I'd be surprised if this wasn't good.

Sounds like an interesting read. I enjoy Pollan's style and wonder how much of this rebuke is political. Foods in their natural state do have something more to offer. For example, some berries with the highest quantities of antioxidants do not have the highest proportion of those actually available for absorption across the gut. Other foods offer enzymes and secondary compounds which aid digestion as well. Not to mention one could bring in ecological costs that are added for enriched foods versus those tasty vegetables grown in manure in your parents garden.

By 1nfinitezer0 (not verified) on 10 May 2008 #permalink