Nutrition and historical food books

These books about all things gastronomical offer plenty of food for thought

In Defence of Food

Michael Pollan, Allen Lane, £16.99

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Michael Pollan’s 2006 book ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ is one of the best-researched and most thought-provoking food books of our time: a well-constructed argument against agribusiness in the US, and explanation of how the current situation arose.

Pollan’s follow-up, ‘In Defence of Food’ is this time an attack on the nutrition industry. Part of the problem with this subject is that he tries to marshal hard facts and figures about what little we know about nutrition and the Western diet – a task as hopeless as herding cats. ‘Defence’ also reads like a response to the question raised by his earlier book, ‘So what should we eat?’ To which his answer is: ‘Eat Food. Mostly plants. Not too much.’

To back up his assertions he chooses facts that fit his arguments, mostly against what he calls ‘nutritionism’. He argues that the dietary diseases of our modern age are caused by a combination of factors including reductionist nutritional ‘science’, the sensational reporting of these nutritional studies, and the industry’s desire to sell us more junk food.

All correct up to a point, although ‘In Defence…’ does come over more like a polemic than a panacea. But if you’re prone to pondering the nutritional advice we’re spoon-fed by ‘experts’, this book is a very necessary antidote.

Guy Dimond, Time Out London Issue 1953: Jan 23-29 2008

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