What should you eat? How should you eat it? Pollan, doyen of all things food-related, serves up the answers in this jauntily illustrated version of his 2009 book.
Whether Kalman’s innocent, pleasantly goofy sketches (similar to those of Roz Chast) add much to the proceedings will be a matter for the beholder’s eye. Much more serious, even with a few playful moments, is Pollan’s text, which opens with a stinging denunciation of the state of nutrition science (it’s “today approximately where surgery was in the year 1650”). And what should we eat? The author’s answer is simple on its face: food. The answer takes on complexity as his rules elaborate on it: Food, by his reckoning, has fewer than three ingredients of which sugar is not the first, is mostly vegetable and would be recognizable to your great-grandmother as, well, food. Much of the overprocessing, oversweetening and generally over-everything of our current diet, writes the author, is a fairly recent development. Pollan finds good guidance in the grandmotherly saw, “Better to pay the grocer than the doctor,” and he advises paying more for better food and getting away from the problematic Western diet that yields so much obesity, heart disease, diabetes and kindred maladies. He recommends the wisdom in the French Je n’ai plus faim, “I’m not hungry anymore,” as opposed to the English “I’m full.” (You want healthy? Then eat to 80 percent of capacity. Don’t get full.) But Pollan usually avoids preachiness, and he closes with the most welcome admonition of all—to let down your guard every now and again and have some fun with a piece of pizza or greasy fistful of cheeseburger.
A pleasure for foodies and a fine gift for anyone who prizes a good meal—but maybe not if that person works for General Mills or in the advertising biz.