About Food

After a summer of social eating, which means - in my case - mindless shoving in of treats that does my health and my figure no good, I was looking for inspiration, something to kickstart A New Beginning for fall. Well, actually, this year I have more concrete ambitions than usual (when I just want to loose the pounds). I have decided to really dig deep into my feeding patterns to try to find a solution to what might be a gallbladder problem, or what might just be IBS (irritable bowel syndrom), which is a fancy way for doctors to shrug and say "we don´t know". Also, if I could keep my weight stable, that would be a positive extra.

I started with Michael Pollan´s "In Defense of Food. An Eater´s Manifesto" (Sw: "Till matens försvar"). This is a criticism of what Pollan (and others) call "nutritionism", and having that explained was a real AHA-moment for me. We no longer eat food, Pollan says, we eat nutrients, like carbohydrates, proteins, good fats, evil fats, vitamins, etc. That is so right! Everyone thinks about food in those terms now. One can not go to a party without sitting next to someone who swears that LCHF (low carb, high fat) has made their lives worth living again. Only they are cheating at this very special occasion, of course. I have never actually seen anyone, IRL, so to speak, eating only meat, butter and vegetables. Never, ever. And so many people seem to do it.

Pollan explains how this started when authorities wanted to give recommendations to their citizens on diet, according to the latest scientific findings. If they said "eat less meat to reduce cancer risk", then the meat industry would explode. If they said "be careful with butter", the dairy industry would go after them. Lobbyism made them start talking nutrients instead. "Eat less protein. Eat less fat. Eat more fiber. Eat less sugar." And the industry would make up products like fat-free butter. Leaner meats (how does that happen? do we starve or excercise pigs?). Sugar-free sodapop. And if their products met with government recommendations, they could attach some kind of healthy-sticker to it.

Of course, this sucks. This is the reason we are totally confused about what to eat, and eat badly. So, what´s the solution?

The bottom line of Pollan´s manifesto is that we should
  • eat what our great-great-grandmothers would have recognized as food. (This pretty much rules out rice and pasta, for me, did you think about that, Pollan? Perhaps I´ll just start making klimp, schpätzle, and knödel a bit more often.)
  • buy nothing that has more than five ingredients to it, ingredients that you know what they are, and know will not harm you. 
  • avoid all so called health-foods.
  • avoid supermarkets. Got to the Farmer´s Market. (Coincidentally, one just opened in our town!)
  • plan the meal from the vegetables that are in season.
  • consider what your meat has been fed on. Use game, if you can. Eat happy elks.
  • first, choose local produce. Second, choose ecological. 
  • drink a little bit of alcohol every day. (Pollan says wine, but my grannies down the ages would have frowned upon such poshery and put a bottle of schnaps on the table.)
  • eat less, but better.
  • eat at the dinner table. (Pollan also says to eat in company as much as possible, but I´m not with him on this, since company always inspires generosity and, in the end, gluttony, at least where I live. Perhaps he means immediate family members, not dinner parties.)
  • eat slowly. (I´m the fastest eater ever. I think doing this would benefit me enormously.)
I have no quarrel with this. I think this is great, and I do most of it already. Pollan is a great inspiration, offers a few concrete, to the point ideas that one can do right now. He injects some new energy into my will to improve, he motivates me. Which is a great thing. And he did teach me something. That food is more than just nutrients. Which is something I really needed to hear. I will add also, as an old, frequent dieter, that food is more than just calories. This is what I tend to focus on come September, every year. Not so this year.

(While I have written this, I have also eaten my dinner, three pieces of oven-pancakes with honey. In my easy chair. Alone. Don´t tell Pollan.)

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