Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Michael Pollan summed up his most recent work in seven words; Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants. Now I am going to admit that I have just started reading "In Defense of Food", but the admonition to "eat food" has gotten me to thinking. I suppose for a variety of reasons I always thought what most people ate was indeed food. By definition, if you ate it, it was food. Then on a recent trip to the grocery store, I actually started looking at many of the products lining the shelves of the store. Normally I just focus on the list. Being a man, I get the list. I go from item to item dutifully retrieving the items on my list, paying little attention to the various and sundry products not on my list. Generally the only isles I travel are canned goods and frozen foods for beans, fruits and veggies. I hit the produce, deli, dairy, and meats. During the holidays, I might visit the baking isle but thats about it. Even so, many of our groceries are purchased from our co-op where much of the food is in bulk bins, not boxes. On this particular occasion however I wandered aimlessly up and down the isles looking at all the brightly colored packages. All the while thinking, people eat this crap? I guess they must because the store certainly stocks a lot of it. I picked up a couple of boxes that had pictures of what looked like food on the cover and read the ingredients. Most of the stuff in the box wasn't anything I recognized as food. Is sodium benzoate, hydrolyzed starch, or red dye number 5 really food? They are not any where in my cupboards or list of ingredients in any of my cook books (I have a collection of more than 100). One box had a picture that looked like fish. The first Ingredient however was hydrolyzed starch, followed in order by salt, sugar, hydrogenated soybean oil, and then finally fish. It seemed like everything in these brightly colored boxes that I examined was what I would call imitation food. There is no way conceivable in my mind that a steady diet of this stuff could possibly be good for you. One of the things had processed and reformed meat. Why would you need to reform meat? Its already formed when they butcher the animal, and nature got it right the first time, it doesn't need to be reformed. For a while I had an image in my head of sending the bad meat to reform school. It was silly, but so is reformed meat. After passing what was probably an inordinate amount of time gawking at people and what was in their carts I realized that I was the only person I saw that didn't have a cart full of brightly colored boxes of imitation food. I'll bet that I was also the only person I saw that day who could stand up straight, look down and see their toes. Coincidence?