Sunday, February 17, 2008

Who's In Charge: Me or My Meals?

For the past month or so, Michael Pollan's been making the rounds to promote his new book In Defense of Food. Last week, he guest-blogged at the Amazon Food Blog. It's a good post, though I'd already read some reviews of the book and other interviews with Pollan, so I was already familiar with most of the ideas he puts forth.

I haven't read In Defense of Food, but I have read several chapters of The Omnivore's Dilemma (I keep meaning to actually buy the book, and keep forgetting, but certain chapters have been reprinted here and there).

I like Pollan's writing style very much and, based on what little I've read, his arguments seem compelling. But there's always been something that bothers me about the all-or-nothing perfectly healthy, ethical and "whole" eating culture that's sprung up around him.

I've written about my issues (and exhaustion) with this cultural movement before (here and, more recently, here). In general, I think that the nanny-state-ishness (that's a word? maybe?) of the movement rankles my libertarian sensibilities. I hate it when people tell me what to do - and especially what to eat (by far the worst part of pregnancy).

And, actually, I'm not sure I really have anything new to add to what I've already written, except to point out that one of the early commenters to Pollan's Amazon post Freudian slipped in a way that nicely sums up what I don't like about the whole movement. After explaining that Pollan's books made such an impact on him that he changed his approach to food and feels much better for it, he referred to his "new eating regime".

I think he meant "regimen"?

I'm thrilled for the commenter that he feels great, but that little slip sums up exactly what I don't want my food to be: I don't need a food-focused totalitarian regime running my life.

And that is exactly what I fear food would become if I spent more time thinking about the ethics of what I eat. I'm pretty sure I don't need more guilt in my life, or more seemingly binding rules for myself. So if I sometimes choose to eat a Little Debbie snack cake (or a McDonald's french fry), can I just feel OK about that?

I'm going to choose to say yes.

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