Food Rules

“Eating in our time has gotten complicated needlessly so, in my opinion.” So goes the opening of Michael Pollan’s book, “Food Rules.” It seems odd to have a book about the rules of eating food but perhaps rather than more rules, we need less. Less complication, less opinion, less of a lot of things. Simplicity is the order of the day.

I was browsing through the bookstore last night when I found a used copy of Pollan’s book and thought to myself, what do people think about eating in our day and age? Another book I picked up, Revolution At The Table, speaks to the changes in food and eating in America since the founding of the country. I was looking toward the past for a glimpse of the future, and the future or present was here in this other book. I bought them both.

I decided to take a wandering path through Pollan’s Food Rules and share them with you, fellow intrepid eaters of the 21st century. Maybe you agree or maybe you do not. Either way, let’s explore the present, and maybe the future, together.

The book takes Pollan’s ideas from his Omnivore’s Dilemma and creates a simple sentence on how we should eat: Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not too much. He breaks these individual parts into the rules that go with them. The first section, Part 1 – Eat Food.

The first rule is, of course, eat food. Pollan’s take on this is that it is easier said than done. What constitutes food? Food is defined as:


fud/ Spelled [food]


1. any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc.
2. more or less solid nourishment, as distinguished from liquids.
3. a particular kind of solid nourishment: a breakfast food; dog food.
4. whatever supplies nourishment to organisms: plant food.
5. anything serving for consumption or use: food for thought.

The key to this take on food is nourishment. Does the whole nourish us and help us grow? That would be a matter of science applied to food. So much of the packaged food that we get has been processed to the point of needing to have anything resembling nourishment forced back in..e.g. white bread. Yet, even the forcing of nutrients into food is considered not necessarily nourishing. Do you know where the vitamins come from that are included in these foods? Do not assume that they come from foods themselves. In the cost saving feature of our time, they most likely come from petroleum products, chemical constituents, and wood pulp. Even so, the individual chemicals we call vitamins do not make up those nourishing micronutrients our bodies need to function well.

The statement of “Eat food.” is broad and confusing in and of itself. As Pollan says, “…most of these items do not deserve to be called food – I call them edible food like substances. They’re highly processed concoctions designed by food scientists, consisting mostly of ingredients derived from corn and soy that no normal person keeps in the pantry, and they contain chemical additives with which the human body has not been long acquainted.”

Bottom line, choose ‘real’ food and avoid processing. Your carrot should look like a dirty, leafy-topped, tendril-dotted orange tuber. Not sure of what the looks like? Check this out… and marvel.

Next entry will be the second rule, and so on. We’ll discuss them in turn, when I get to them. If you have comments, I’d love to hear them.

Happy Eating!