Monday, June 28, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Food Rules by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan has been ubiquitous as of late. With films like Food Inc, his latest article in the New York Times Review of Books in which he reviews other books about food justice, and even a PBS documentary based on his earlier book The Botany of Desire, it seems that everywhere one turns, there Pollan is with his measured tone of voice and his matter-of-fact insights on the food industry, especially if one is involved in some sort of food justice work.

It seems a little too soon, however, for a greatest-hits compilation. Unfortunately, it soon becomes evident that that is what Food Rules is. To be fair, I don’t think Pollan argues that it is anything but a “pocket guide” to eating right, a place to put his chestnuts of food wisdom together in a book that can easily slide into a purse for easy access. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.

I approached the book with the knowledge that it was a “pocket guide”, but I did not expect the book to be a mere condensation of In Defense of Food. In fact, I would suggest that if you have read the latter book already, you have pretty much read the “extended version” of Food Rules and you probably do not have to purchase this newer book at all. However, if you have found In Defense of Food to be daunting, or perhaps wants a simple, list-style guide to eating right to give as a gift to friends or family members who you would like to introduce to the notion of food justice and the inequities of the food industry, I would highly recommend this book.

The format of the book is very user-friendly: a series of numbered “rules”, some presented without explanation, others with a paragraph or two explaining the rationale behind them. Indeed, for anyone starting to question the food industry and the Standard American Diet, this is probably a good start. However, I would not recommend this as reading for anyone who has already read In Defense of Food, as Food Rules will seem endlessly redundant and a waste of money to you.

Review by Johanna (Turf CSA member)

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