Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Eat like Granny

My organic fruit and veg box includes a weekly newsletter from the farm owner. Mostly his news is information about current crops and growing conditions. This week it was a more general piece about food and healthy eating, triggered by a newly imposed requirement to use computer generated nutrition analysis to establish whether school meals cooked by his company are "healthy".

First he quoted four guidelines from Michael Pollan's In Defence of Food, which sound eminently sensible to me:

  1. don’t eat anything your great grandmother would not recognise as food
  2. don’t buy anything with more than five ingredients
  3. only eat at a table; eat slowly and communally
  4. distrust any food claiming health benefits
He feels - rightly - that we have lost confidence in our ability to know what is "good" food, and spend too much time listening to scientific "experts" and not enough listening to granny. And he cites one of my personal bugbears:
Even today there is just too much that we do not know. Nothing illustrates this better than the thirty year vilification of butter only to find that the miserable, meal ruining transfats (margarine etc) that have displaced it are in all probability more damaging.
This was his conclusion:
Traditionally cooked whole foods have been elbowed aside in favour of highly processed functional foods designed, manufactured and marketed to solve the problems associated with a Western diet. They don’t seem to be working. Science will not solve a cultural problem; namely a collapse in the willingness, confidence and skills needed to cook and enjoy real food. There is no one healthy diet or silver bullet that can better the knowledge accumulated over generations of how to use predominantly locally sourced ingredients to sustain us through happy and healthy lives. Pollan’s advice is that unless you suffer from a specific dietary illness like diabetes, the best thing to do with a nutritionist’s advice is to ignore it.
You can read the whole newsletter here.

The book sounds good, and I was glad to find my library has a copy. Only one copy, and three reservations ahead of me, but I have added myself to the queue and can wait patiently!


Shari said...

I just finished reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Pollan (because your review of Small is Still Beautiful made me look for something else to read!). The Granny method of food choice has found a firm foothold here. We have also become very aware of how much High Fructose Corn Syrup is in everything. To the point that Joe has sighingly said,"I should have given up HFCS for Lent."

Jennifer said...

What a great way to look at food! I love his 4 requirements, so based in common sense (Which is very refreshing these days!).

Carole in Wales said...

I am with you, Kathryn. I love to cook anyway, but I would not say that I was a gourmet cook. I just like to get in the kitchen and make a nice home-cooked meal.

And I always avoid foods that say they are "healthy." Eat fresh, eat naturally.

The Bookworm said...

I can never look at a food labelled "low fat" without mentally adding "high sugar".

Wendrie said...

Kathryn - I've just read both of Pollan's books and found them really interesting. Hope you enjoy them :)

However, you might end up with the following conversation: "I'm hungry", "there's food in the kitchen", "no, there aren't, there are only ingredients" :)