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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Pollan’

Interacting with “The Vegetarian Myth” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”

September 22nd, 2010 No comments

The Vegetarian Myth –

->  A general review by Ginny Messina, RD, whose husband Keith misquotes in her book …

“On page 227, she notes that “Mark Messina, a champion of soy, thinks the Japanese eat 8.6 [grams of soyfoods] per day,” or less than a tablespoon. Really? Well, I happen to be married to Mark Messina, so I have a fairly good idea of what he “thinks” about soy intake. But even if I didn’t know him, I could read his 2006 analysis of soy intake data that was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Nutrition and Cancer. Apparently, Keith didn’t or she would have seen that Asian soy intake is the equivalent of 1 to 1 ½ servings or more per day. Why did she get this so wrong? It’s because she doesn’t understand that there is a difference between soy protein intake and soy food intake. A cup of soymilk contains around 7 grams of soy protein, so the 8.6 to 11 grams of protein that the Japanese typically eat is equal to at least a serving per day.”

-> Or, check out The Vegetarian Myth Myth.  It’s a blog whose singular focus is “deconstructing [Keith’s] book by chapters and themes, in order to give some perspective, as well as offer what we consider some vitally important alternatives to Keith’s ideas.”  A debunking of the debunking, if you will.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma –

-> Over at  Say what, Michael Pollan?, Adam Merberg writes a blog designed “to encourage Pollan to check facts and think through arguments more carefully.”  Again, a single issue blog.

-> B.R. Myers writes an early review of Pollan’s book in this article, Hard to Swallow – The gourmet’s ongoing failure to think in moral terms. I think this paragraph can just as easily be used to respond to all the Paleo-Diet, “man” the cave-dwelling hunter type arguments … which all baffle me in this same way.  It shouldn’t take long to recognize the problem with relying on “we used to do it” reasoning.

“One might as well describe man the way the anthropologist Ernest Becker did, as a digestive tract with teeth at one end and an anus at the other, and claim that the soul is shaped out of that. In which case, I don’t want one. But most of us use soul to mean the part of humanness that is not shaped out of that. In contrast to the fearless Becker, Pollan thinks that taking a hard look at human nature is more a matter of leaning over the museum rail at the caveman exhibit. Seeing only the painted mammoth on the horizon, so to speak, he derives the rightness of meat eating from the fact that humans are physically suited to it, they enjoy it, and they have engaged in it until modern times without feeling much “ethical heartburn.” (Only a food writer would use such an appalling phrase.) According to Pollan, this “reality” demands our respect. The same reasoning could be used to defend our mistreatment of children: In body and instinct, we are marvelously well-equipped for making their lives hell. If many cultures now object to abusing them, it is thanks to new values, to people who refused to respect the time-honored “reality.”

Idolatry, Holidays, and the Fun of Sacrificial Victims

November 9th, 2009 No comments

Elizabeth Kolbert reviewing “Eating Animals“,

How is it that Americans, so solicitous of the animals they keep as pets, are so indifferent toward the ones they cook for dinner? The answer cannot lie in the beasts themselves. Pigs, after all, are quite companionable, and dogs are said to be delicious.

Indeed.
Read more…

Bill Maher, Michael Pollan, Food Inc.

June 1st, 2009 No comments

Bill Maher interviews Michael Pollen about his new book, In Defense of Food, in his 5/29 show.  Pollen isn’t exactly a vegetarian but … as they say, if they’re not against you, they’re with you. (In the time since I originally posted this I’ve learned how much Pollen actually falls into the “against you” category.  Even so I suppose I would still write the next sentence.) I don’t care where the information comes from at this point as long as people start hearing it.  The best part comes at 2:50 … about the rate / amount of change in our diets in the last 50 years compared to our entire history.  Go Bill.  (if the video gets pulled you might try bill maher’s site?)  Anyway it was a great show.

Now that the movie is out … see it for yourself.  Food Inc.

While you’re at it … there’s also Earthlings.

The Idolatry of Food

August 25th, 2008 No comments

This is one of the most on-target articles I’ve seen in the past year, “Hard To Swallow – The gourmet’s ongoing failure to think in moral terms”, by B.R. Myers.  The article was published in the Sept. 2007 issue of The Atlantic.  It’s a critique of the book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”.  I’ve read the book but my personal comments here are about the larger issues, not that particular book.

It begins …

For centuries civilized society took a dim view of food lovers, calling them “gourmands” and “gluttons” and placing them on a moral par with lechers. They were even assigned their own place in hell, and I don’t mean a table near the kitchen: They were to be force-fed for eternity. Not until halfway through the Industrial Revolution did the wordgourmet come into use. Those who have since applied it to themselves have done a fine job of converting the world’s scorn to respect. The pleasures of the oral cavity (though we must say “palate” instead) are now widely regarded as more important, more intrinsically moral, and a more vital part of civilized tradition than any other pleasures. People who think nothing of saying “I’m not much of a reader” will grow shamefaced when admitting an ignorance of wine or haute cuisine.

I like it already.  Food can be a very touchy subject, especially when you try and imply there are moral implications to what we eat.  Why wouldn’t there be? (This is, of course, a rhetorical question.  I know why some people think there aren’t and we’ll talk about that in other posts.)

The last holdover of the old way of thinking is the Catholic catechism, which keeps gluttony on its list of sins and indicates—by using the word gourmandise in the French version, and by defining sin in part as “a perverse attachment to certain goods”—that the original meaning of gluttony is to be understood.

I recently heard a report that laid out how, if trends remain the same, by 2040, all the adults in the U.S. will be overweight.   Just let that sink in.  But here’s my favorite part of the article at hand …

… the idolatry of food cuts across class lines. This can be seen in the public’s toleration of a level of cruelty in meat production that it would tolerate nowhere else. If someone inflicts pain on an animal for visual, aural, or sexual gratification, we consider him a monster, and the law makes at least a token effort at punishment. If someone’s goal is to put the “product” in his mouth? Chacun à son goût.

And there you have it.  We’d rather be satisfying our appetites for flesh than bothering with all those pesky moral implications so, let’s just not think about it.  It’s called cognitive dissonance.  No amount of proof-texting will spare you from the truth in your own heart.

But by reducing man’s moral nature to an extension of our instincts, Pollan is free to present his appetite as a sort of moral-o-meter, the final authority for judging the rightness of all things culinary.

It ends with …

It is common these days to see moral arguments veer off into appeals to self-interest.

And finally,

A record of the gourmet’s ongoing failure to think in moral terms, The Omnivore’s Dilemma helps one to understand why no reformer ever gave a damn about fine dining—or the family dinner table either. When Jesus vowed to turn children against their parents, he knew he’d be ruining an untold number of perfectly good meals.

Read the entire article here.