Todd Nemet's Reviews > What to Eat

What to Eat by Marion Nestle
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Jun 13, 10

bookshelves: kindle, library
Read in June, 2010

I'm going to review this book even though I'm only half way through it. It's just a lot of information to absorb, so I know I'll probably be reading it bit by bit until the end of the year.

The premise of the book couldn't be simpler: A professor of nutrition goes through a typical grocery store aisle by aisle explaining the politics, nutrition, and economics behind the food we buy and its packaging. A lot of times the real drama is in the packaging. For example, if you have ever wondered about the difference between "natural" beef and "organic" beef, you probably want to read this book.

This book is completely fascinating to me though I'm not the type of guy who says "Hooray! Three chapters on dairy production!"

The introduction makes the very interesting point that there is too much food grown in our country. About 3,900 calories is created each day per person -- almost twice as much as necessary for the average person -- and the various components of the food industry are dedicated to getting you to buy and consume as many calories as possible.

Without being strident, this book also points out the way that food subsidies (especially for corn) and the corporate profit motive combined with a government terrified to upset any of the various food lobbies has led to a crazy and confusing system where the consumer is left to fend for himself.

Seemingly innocuous issues like labeling the country of origin for produce or meat turn in to a decade long back-and-forth between lobbyists and Congress. I tend to skew pretty libertarian on most issues, but this is one area where the people would benefit from stronger government.

My only complaint about this book that it is too dense with information. This could be because I am starting from scratch because I know next to nothing about food, cooking, or nutrition. I have strongly held opinions about how to make a grilled cheese and which 7-Elevens have the best Lucky Charms, but that's about it.

I also checked out "On Food And Cooking," and read the chemistry section in the back as I was reading this book. That was the only way I could follow along carefully when things like triglycerides, trans-fats, and omega-3s were mentioned, but I don't think it's necessary to get the main point.

If you don't think you have the gazillions of hours necessary to get through this book (though these hours would be well spent), then I'd recommend finding Professor Nestle's talk at Google on YouTube and watching that.
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