Thanks to everyone who has
sent nice notes about my mom. She’s doing better than we thought – they
downgraded (upgraded?) her diagnosis from Stage III to Stage I lung cancer (for
those of you fortunate enough not to be fluent in cancer-speak, this is a good
thing) and we are hopeful that surgery can take care of it. So keep sending her
good thoughts and, if you smoke, quit, damn it!
Meanwhile, I am suffering
from a surfeit of comfort food (who knew you could have too much) and looking
for a healthier path to tread. Nothing extreme, I just don’t want to feel like
a slug. Lo and behold, the answer was in yesterday’s New York Times. I have decided
to go on the Michael Pollan diet.
Pollan, in case you don’t know, is the
author of the best book I read last year -– The Omnivore’s Dilemma — a
thoughtful, provocative exploration of the sources of our food. He had a piece
in the New York Times Magazine
called “Unhappy Meals,” where he basically sums up a semester’s worth of my
food and politics class in 10,000 words. (I’m linking to it here
-– you may need to register to read it but it’s free. After about 7 days they
will probably archive it and then you have to pay. It’s worth it.)
Essentially Pollan says we
have forgotten how to eat because we have been led astray by the myopia of
our science and the greed of our politicians. We need to learn to eat the way
we used to. In his words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Wait, it gets better.
Really. At the end of the 10,000 words he elaborates on this with nine “rules
1. Eat food, by which he means whole
foods our great-great-grandmothers would have recognized as food. No Go-Gurt. No pop tarts. No diet colas. No highly processed
and refined anything, no matter how many vitamins and nutrients have been added
2. Avoid foods that make
grandiose claims about how good they are for us. The best foods don’t brag (or, in his words, don’t miss the silence of the yams.)
3. Avoid foods whose
ingredients are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than five in number, or
contain high fructose corn syrup.
4. Shop at farmers markets
when you can. The food is better quality, and less processed.
5. “Pay more, eat less.”
Everyone knows that eating less is better than eating more, it’s just that the
food lobbies stop the government from telling us so since it will hurt their
pocketbooks. Screw the food lobbies. Enjoy smaller amounts of higher quality
(organic!) foods and feel better.
6. Eat mostly plants,
especially leaves. Treat meat as a side dish, or a flavoring.
7. “Eat more like the French.
Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside,
people who eat according to the rules of a traditional culture are generally
healthier than we are. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t a healthy
diet, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around.”
8. Cook and garden.
9. Eat like an omnivore. Add
more species to your diet – right now 2/3 of the human diet comes from corn,
soybeans, wheat and rice and that is not nutritionally diverse enough to
sustain health. (I know, I know, you big meat eaters don’t think that’s true,
but as molecular analysis will reveal, most of the beef you eat is just
So… Not too taxing, not too
scary. I’ve been doing some of those things anyway. I don’t really eat meat, I
eat a lot of vegetables, and I love leaves. (This article told me what that’s
called, by the way – turns out I am a flexitarian.)
But I’ve been eating way too much cheese and butter lately and my record with
processed and refined foods is sad.
Hence, endives for lunch! I
love endives, but since they aren’t made from white flour I haven’t seen them
in my fridge lately. I braised these – cut them in half, seared them in (a little
bit of) butter, drizzled some broth on them, salted and peppered, scattered a
handful of chopped kalamata olives over the top and dotted them with goat
cheese (I used a Capriole
Farms Piper’s Pyramide I got at the Winter Market on Saturday though feta
is also good on this.) Covered the dish with foil and baked for 40 minutes at
350. Ate it hot for lunch with crusty bread and snacked on it cold a couple of
hours later. Both were excellent.