Skip the mouldy advice in this entree and savour the classic Michael Pollan of The Omnivore’s Dilemma instead.
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. These seven words Pollan-ated the entire thinking-foodie world in 2006. They made Michael Pollan, food activist and journalist, into a best-selling author. The New York Times listed The Omnivore’s Dilemma as one of the best non-fiction books of the year. The James Beard Foundation lauded it, and universities abroad turned it into required reading.
Somewhere along the way, I also got Pollan-ated, upturning packaged products, squinting at their labels, searching for high-fructose corn syrup, the great offending ingredient from the processed food factories. Without spilling too much bile, let’s just say corn syrup sends your liver and insulin into overdrive.
Now comes Food Rules, as slimly pocket-able as a hipflask, except that it offers you a health high. It’s got a single green pea printed on its front jacket. And it takes about 60 minutes to absorb the 64, sometimes banal, sometimes funny and a few breakthrough Food Rules printed from the pea pod onwards to page 140. They’re supposed to help you negotiate the complexities of eating in this age of dietary uncertainty, where eggs are good, eggs are bad and suddenly Sachin Tendulkar might’ve made a whole load of money endorsing eggs for the National Egg Coordination Committee.
Rather than telling you what’s for dinner, Pollan tells you what to eat—over your lifetime. Savour Rule 13: ‘Eat foods that will eventually rot.’ Whassat? Spurn packaged goods where corporations extract health-enhancing omega 3 fatty acids to extend their product’s shelf life. He also spikes all imitations like artificial sweeteners (you can’t fool the brain), lite and non-fat creations (margarine is a pretend food that choked America’s arteries).
Yes, this will disturb your joy of eating.
For those who’ve read Pollan’s earlier works, be warned, this is a condensed version of his ideas tacked on to a compilation of views from everyday experts like grandmothers. And it is aimed at Obama country; Indians do eat food, not too much and mostly plants. But old-time Mumbaikars do so after warning the bhajiwalas, ‘no railway spinach’. This is grown besides suburban railways tracks, fertilised by human uric acid and gloop. Brain cysts caused by tapeworms are at an epidemic level in urban India. More vegetarians have tapeworm than meat eaters, as these cling to veggies like coriander that’s eaten raw.
Even if Pollan insists, ‘It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car’—alluding to fast food—sometimes, a Mc wrap or Mc alu tikki is the cheapest clean meal. Read this book knowing that some of these food rules, that repeat like a heavy dinner, are rather unforgiving and indigestible. Besides, who’d actually abide by Rule 31: ‘Eat weeds and wild animals’? Even if their meat is less fatty, it’s still unlawful. Somehow, you might end up being cross at this sort of Pollan-ation.