Patrick Gibson's Reviews > In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
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's review
Aug 23, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: truth_sort-of, nerdboy
Read in September, 2009

The author sums it up in the first sentence: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

And then, like he says, the game is up and he has to somehow keep it going for a couple hundred pages.
I was unaware the first artificial food substance was made in the early 1800’s. It was oleomargarine—which has been one of the most adaptable and constant fake foods for two hundred years. In the early 1900’s there were so many fake butters on the market the government made manufacturers color their products pink so people would know they were an imitation product.

All hell broke loose after the WWII. So many highly preserved and man-made edible substances had been produced for the soldiers it was only logical the manufacturing conglomerates would want to foster this onto the general public. After all, the machines were already cranking this stuff out. But—and this is important—all if these man-made substances were labeled ‘imitation’ somewhere on the label.

Everything changed in January 1977 when lobbyists successfully coerced the Food and Drug administration to drop the ‘imitation’ requirement in place of ‘nutrients.’ With this change came a massive marketing campaign forcing the public to view food differently—not as a wholesome substance, but as a glob of nutrients. Natural or man-made—we aren’t supposed to think of the difference or care. We compare the nutrition facts on a bag of gummy bears with the same analytical eye we would compare a jar of almonds.

Nutrition labels, food pyramids, weekly news (coffee causes cancer—no, wait, coffee is an antioxidant; no Trans-fat! Now with Omega3) are all designed to keep us in the manufacturers food chain—oblivious to how it is produced or even what really is in it.

And what is in this stuff is, for the most part, deadly.

The author has a very interesting section on milk. The food industry has been trying to synthesize milk for almost a hundred years. They have not been able to do it—which is why Baby Formula has gone through innumerable changes—most because the scientists keep finding out things are missing or wrong.

This book is a common sense look at what and why we eat what we eat. It is no where near as inflammatory as ‘Food Inc.’ which means it takes a subdued more intellectual approach to how we are caught up in the food chain that fills us with artificial nutrients and fake foods. It’s enlightening without being indicative.
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