In Defense of Food book cover
In Defense of Food – An Eater’s Manifesto
By Michael Pollan

It’s hard to know where to start with this book review. Pollan touches on so much; the term “manifesto” in the title is no understatement. And yet throughout the twists and turns that explore our perceptions of and our relation to food, Pollan always remains squarely focused on his one, simple, yet surprisingly challenging credo:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Pollan begins with the demise of Mom as controller, boss and decision-maker over the evening meal. When we as a society replaced Mom’s authority over our food choices with advice from scientists and food marketers, we all began to suffer. After all, who really had our best interest at heart?

For decades now, big agriculture has focused on growing produce with synthetic chemicals and raising livestock on pharmaceuticals. The goal is return, quantity and profit. The side effect of this is that our food has been transformed from something we could identify (…grape, …cow) and eat without worry, to the confusingly refined, enriched and modified cacophony of chemicals that we call food today.

To help us understand these food-like substances, we have turned to the professionals for guidance—government food guides, dieticians, nutritionists, trainers and celebrities (who learned from nutritionists and trainers). And so we learned about nutrients and micronutrients, and now we worry over vitamin D, anti-oxidants and essential fatty acids.

Pollan uses the term nutritionism to describe this focus on nutrients and our tendency to break our food down into its parts. He asks his readers to return to seeing food as something that is whole in itself, not a series of parts. Eat an apple not because it contains vitamin C and a nice mix of soluble and insoluble fibre, but because apples are good for you and we know this from millennia of eating them.

With food science in its infancy, Pollan suggest we revert our trust to our traditional food knowledge. The eating habits of our grandparents and ancestors allowed them to survive because the methods were tried and true. The diversity of traditional diets (Greek, French, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, whatever) is proof it’s possible to nourish ourselves from a huge range of different foods—as long as they are food.

In the west, our current dietary focus on processed corn, wheat and soy is a direct result of what’s easy and fast to grow, ship and store. The apparent focus of our agricultural system on quantity over quality, and the goal to produce as many calories per acre as possible, regardless of nutritional value, is leading us down the garden path and straight into the arms of our Western diseases: obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Instead of chasing elusive super foods to cure our ills, Pollan asks us to re-visit our perception of one of the most basic necessities of life. Is more necessarily better? Are new scientific discoveries more reliable than traditional knowledge? Who really should be deciding what goes into your stomach?

This is, needless to say, a must read.

Grass!You might be wondering what’s up with our logo. And you wouldn’t be the first. After all, as a general rule, people don’t eat grass, and our mantra here at LocalFoody is “Helping People Find Good Food”. So, what gives?

Well, to quote Michael Pollan “All Flesh is Grass”. This is the title of Chapter 8 in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the book that drove me to create LocalFoody, and the sense of it touched me profoundly.

Grass is at the foundation of a sustainable food system, one that is in harmony with nature, and balances inputs and outputs for the good of humans and other animals alike. From the pastures we domesticated animals on, to the corns, greens and other grass variants that sustain us, grass has long been at the core of our food system.

In Pollan’s words:
Our species’ coevolutionary alliance with the grasses has deep roots and has probably done more to ensure our success as a species than any other with the possible exception of the trillion or so bacteria that inhabit the human gut.”

Michael Pollan answers questions from readers in an interview with Time Magazine.

So, what is LocalFoody and why did we start it?

The Omnivore's DilemmaIt all started when we were on vacation last winter. Nothing like sitting by the pool miles away from the closest Internet connection to create time and space to do some reading. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” by Michael Pollan was at the top of my reading list, and it really changed the way I think about food.

From the description of the Industrial Food System, to big Organic, to Joel Salatin’s amazing Polyface Farms, I found myself driven to find out more about the local food movement and the hundred mile diet. But we were offline in Mexico. I resolved to do some online research when we got home, and find “that site” that would allow me to find good, local, organic food producers and distributors.

Well much to my surprise, I didn’t find “that site”. There was a long list of great sites that talk about Organic and local food, even a really solid directory site (LocalHarvest), but nothing that uses the power of geolocation and social networks to create a great simple-to-use web experience around finding good food.

They say that people come up with the best ideas in order to scratch their own itch. LocalFoody is our attempt to solve our own problem – a quick and easy way to find good food near us. We’re working hard, and hope the end result is useful to you, too.