Did you know that when McDonald’s was founded, a 7 oz. cup was the only size of soda (or "pop" as we say here in Michigan)? For real.
Now the "small" is 16 ounces and the large is a whopping 32 ounces, one full quart of sugary nothingness.
I think that epitomizes what is wrong with the American food supply right there.
It’s one of the juicy tidbits you’ll learn if you pick up Michael Pollan’s new edition of Food Rules, illustrated by Maira Kalman.
I love that Pollan has allowed his work of the original Food Rules (which is not even that old) to be organically molded and changed by the readers and the culture. He received so much feedback on his rules that he decided he just had to add some to the book. A quick rules theory at a Slow Food site, for example, netted him over 4,000 replies. I feel like I probably know some of the folks who responded, don’t you?
At the same time, this new Food Rules is much less affordable in hardback than the original small paperback version. I kind of feel like illustrating it is just a marketing ploy to be able to smack a higher price tag on the text. I’m really no art aficionado, so perhaps I just don’t appreciate the work of Maira Kalman.
I think the illustrations are nice, very country-inspired, whimsical…but other than a few little laughs, I don’t feel that they add leaps and bounds to the value of the book itself. The value is most certainly in Pollan’s rules, factoids, and dry wit about the state of our relationship with food.
My Favorite Rules
I wish there were asterisks by the new rules, because I had trouble picking them out and was curious.
A couple that were definitely worth adding include no. 57: If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re probably not hungry, and no. 24: When you eat real food, you don’t need rules.
Number 24 is very true, but easier said than done. One practically needs rules (the first 23, actually) to find real food in the current edible landscape. Pollan encapsulates the issue well on the first page of the first rule: "Today much of the challenge of eating well comes down to choosing real food and avoiding [the] industrial novelties."
I love that Pollan keeps his fingers out of the high fructose corn syrup vs. sugar debate and takes the high road with rule no. 4: since all sugar is bad for you, he explains, avoid products with high fructose corn syrup simply because it’s a marker of a highly processed, not real food. Nicely done.
I can’t remember if rule number 36, basically to eat fermented foods, is new or not, but it resonates with me more now that I have taught sourdough and homemade yogurt in the GNOWFGLINS eCourse, and I know fermented foods are so valuable to our overall health. He’s speaking my language!
I’ll probably never be good at some of the common sense "don’t eat too much" rules like only eat at a table, don’t have seconds, leave something on your plate and only "eat meals." I like food too much! But Michael Pollan definitely sets the bar high and has many good things to say.
If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, go. I saw him last spring, and asked this question:
“Is it possible to feed the world on a grassfed, Salatin-style paradigm? Can factory farms make improvements to be more eco-friendly? Is there a middle ground?”
You can read his answer here.
I Disagree With…
Last year when I first read the original Food Rules, I wrote a letter to Michael Pollan with some rebuttals on three of his rules. I still more or less agree with my own conclusions, but I’d edit myself at the same time.
First, Pollan says Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food. I wanted to see him laud the nutrition of meat more, but now that prices are skyrocketing even more, I have to admit I am using less meat. I don’t know about a special occasion food, period, but perhaps having a big hunk of meat as the centerpiece of a meal is more or less for special occasions.
I also disagreed with rule #39: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. I thought my family would still get fat with all that I made myself. Now that my life is crazier, I guarantee we’d eat less junk if I had to make it ALL homemade, even the tortilla chips and ice cream. So maybe he’s onto something.
After all, this rule is kind of beneficial to me, as an author of books like Healthy Snacks to Go and Smart Sweets – if you need to satiate your sweet tooth with homemade recipes, I’m your girl! Just pay no attention to rule number 71: Eat meals. It means cut out the snacking and eating on the run…so no "healthy snacks to go" there, right?
But as long as you make them yourself…
In case the illustrations need redeeming: For some folks, an image is really worth 1000 words. My husband, an avid non-reader but for Sports Illustrated, picked up my book, squinted at the painting on the back cover of a hilarious cereal box, and asked, "Is this book going to say that cereal is bad? Is this an anti-cereal book?"
See? No pictures, I might not have had a good conversation starter.
The cereal box, by the way, says: "Crazy fun! Food for fun! Full of it! The craziest fun you’ll ever consume! Crazy fun cereal provides you with twice the zilch of other cereals * approved * provides us with crazy fun profits!"
Particularly in light of this recent post on junky cereal.
So I guess that’s a perfect exception to my "the illustrations don’t add anything to the text" rule.
This one does. And it’s darn funny.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the illustrated Food Rules free of charge as part of a virtual book tour. I was really hoping I’d get to interview Michael Pollan himself, but as you can see I’m left with just my own measly words. Bummer. I was not obligated to write a positive review, just an honest one (I wouldn’t have it any other way). See my full disclosure statement here.
Images are from TLC book tours.