If your great-grandmother doesn’t know what it is…you probably shouldn’t eat it

“Not only because food matters and health matters but because all of the stories that surround food matter.  They shape who we are as individuals, who we are as families, and who we are as communities.”- Jonathan Safran Foer

Michigan Cherry Orchard

One of my favorite things about northern Michigan

I love that quote. It sums up my enlightening recently. I have never much gotten into the discussions about what to and what not to eat, I just ate whatever I wanted. But as I talked about in my last post, Rules of Engagement when it comes to food, I am now watching what I put in my mouth. Didn’t our moms always say, “You are what you eat.” Not just to eat healthier, but to become food conscious, to learn as Foer says, the stories that surround  food.

Let me be the first to tell you that I am by no means an expert on the topic. That is why books and movies like Eating Animals, Food Inc. (which just received an Oscar nod for best documentary) and Food Rules are so helpful.  Robert Kenner, Director of Food Inc. said, these are “for people who didn’t know.” It’s meant to shake up perceptions and address questions of where food comes from and how is it processed. Consider me shaken. But then I’m faced with the question, “Now what?”

Enter journalist Michael Pollen. He set out to answer the simple question, what should we eat? Luckily the answer is equally as simple, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He was curious. He saw the Western diet wasn’t working, realized this whole “food science” thing is still a young practice and he was tired of looking through food at the calories, carbs, and fats. He saw that our diet of processed meats, fats and refined sugars that make up with he calls, “food like substances,” was literally killing us. This isn’t happening in countries with traditional diets. After heavy research in the area and two earlier books on the subject, Pollan writes Food Rules to give advice on how we can get off this Western diet with 64 ideas for eating “happily and healthily.”

Todd A. Wilson's beautiful sketch

So inquisitive readers, you, may be thinking much like I did, “That’s all fine and dandy. I agree we should pay more attention to what we eat but won’t that be like going cold turkey? How can a busy person do this in a smart and affordable way?” The answer is, I don’t know but I’m learning and I’m starting small-with a few simple rules. Scratch that, not rules…but as Foer says, “not law or religion, but a series of choices.”

Pollan breaks these 64 rules up into three sections: What Should I Eat, What Kind of Food Should I Eat and How Should I Eat. I’m going to do this Letterman style and have a top ten with my favorites, and ones I am going to work on.

Rule #5- Avoid foods that have some form of sugar listed among the top three ingredients. I didn’t know this but labels list ingredients by weight. So if sugar is a top three…it’s got too much sugar in it!

Rule #7- Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce. I just love that one!

Rule #15- Get out of the supermarket whenever you can. I need to work on this one. I want to explore the farmers market and get out of the grocery isles. It’s a great way to get fresh local produce and support local economy as well. I think this will also help my snacking. If I buy healthier snacks, that will keep me munching on fruits, nuts, veggies etc.

Rule #37- “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead.” If there’s one simple change I can make, it’s getting rid of the white flour, white pasta and white bread and choose whole grain. I LOVE bread and pasta but need to take a hint from my Italian ancestors and eat whole grain.

Rule #41- Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Pollan stresses that it’s not just what a culture eats but HOW. Take the French and Italians, they don’t skimp on the carbs. But they eat in smaller portions, they don’t take seconds and they don’t snack. Also, I love that they eat communal meals.

Rule #43- Have a glass of wine with dinner. Now here’s one we can get behind! Wine has always been in the French and Mediterranean diet and red wine in particular has been proven to have health benefits especially when it comes to the heart. Always in moderation.

Rule #44 Pay more, eat less. You get what you pay for right? I’m bad at this cause I always look for the bargain. But what am I paying for or a better question…what am I NOT paying for? My new slogan is quality over quantity.

Rule #47 Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored. This will be a hard one for me.

Rule #62 Plant a vegetable garden if you have the space, a window box if you don’t. I would love to grow some of my own food so I’ll be looking into this.

Rule #63 Cook. Working on it!

I know I said 10 but just one more. Rule #64 Break the rules once in awhile! So here’s to getting the conversation started! I’d love to hear what you think or what decisions you’ve made.

Other nifty things on the subject:
1. Author of Food Rules, Michael Pollan’s interview with Oprah
2. Beth, author of one of my favorite blogs, Eat.Drink.Smile on the subject and of her moment of food enlightenment: You are what you eat


4 thoughts on “If your great-grandmother doesn’t know what it is…you probably shouldn’t eat it

  1. again, good blog. am getting rid of certain things in my cabinets too.
    And t.
    the video was “food.inc” that i told you about on Amazon.
    Enjoy the seminars.
    If you come up this spring let me know, i will give you places to go for fresh and local grown, now that i know.

  2. Again, another great post!! You’ve inspired me to write more on the matter too, so that’s on my agenda for next week. I often forget that much of the valuable information that has been a given to me for so long is totally unknown to many.

    I would love to go shopping at the Nashville Farmers’ Market with you some time. They often have chef demos on Saturday mornings –so much fun!

  3. I wish I understood how it came to be that companies were allowed to make food that is bad for us. And now that we know, why are they still allowed to. They can save money and use cheaper ingredients, like HFCS and partially hydrogenated garbage, and so many people don’t have a choice but to eat that stuff.

    It shouldn’t be so hard to get good food to the masses.

  4. Pingback: Weekends are for (food)lovers- Story of a vegan & a meat lover « JayeWalking

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