Decisions, decisions.

Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson: three people who want you to think more carefully about what you eat and your food’s origins.  Or, three patronizing know-it-alls who want to take away your right to choose to eat whatever you want. It all depends on your perspective.

I have read two of the three authors. Schlosser’s book, Fast Food Nation, opened my eyes in a most disturbing fashion. His description of slaughterhouses and the appalling conditions for both animal and human was upsetting, to say the least. I would read it snippets to my husband who echoed my sentiments of shock and disgust.

Then came to Pollan’s In Defense of Food. The basic premise of the book? Know where your food is coming from. Fresh is usually better than frozen and if you can afford to buy local and/or organic food, so much the better. If you’re shopping at the grocery store, try to stick to products on the ends: items in the middle are less likely to be beneficial to your health. The next time I went grocery shopping, I had a good look at how the store was laid out and, sure enough, most of the less healthy items were smack in the middle.  I also read Omnivore’s Dilemma, where he follows the different methods by which food is attained: industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food foraged for by the individual. What follows is equal parts revolting and illuminating. An interesting read. I learned a lot about the US government and was pretty horrified at how they’ve driven farmers out of business.

I have yet to read Masson’s The Face on Your Plate. Masson discusses whether or not humans *need* to eat meat and whether, ethically, they should do so.  Not only for the sake of the animal’s life, but for the environment as it is destroyed around the world for the production and sale of meat. (e.g. fuel for planes shipping the food across the world, cutting down trees, polluting rivers with run-off from factories, etc.) I haven’t read it for a couple of reasons, chiefly among them that I can only take so much of the same message.

All three authors present the facts clearly and, I think, non-judgmentally. I don’t believe their aim is to make you feel like a lesser person for eating certain products. I believe the aim is to educate the public. I happily ate fast food for years on end, fairly aware that I was eating wasn’t healthy, but I had no idea that it wasn’t actually made with FOOD.  Even if I *could* eat fast food, I wouldn’t. (My gallbladder was removed in the spring of 2005 and I couldn’t be happier about that. I can’t eat the shit I used to or I will pay dearly. I just wish I’d known how much damage I was doing in the first place with my terrible diet.) I assumed that when I ordered a burger from McDonald’s, it was made with…y’know…meat from cows; I assumed when I ordered McNuggets, I was eating chicken. Technically, I suppose the meat could be labeled as such. Chicken carcass and ligament and nasty bits…well, they all come from the chicken, right?

I know some people find the above authors preachy and self-important. I find them educational. I  severely curtailed the amount of processed food that I ate not only because of my lack of gallbladder; but, because I found the idea of genetically-modified and “enhanced” food to be disgusting. I suppose I knew all along much of what I ate wasn’t helping my body to function at its peak, but when confronted with facts, it was impossible to ignore.  I love a locally-raised chicken with fresh vegetables. I can confidently tell the difference between the raspberries picked in my parents’ back yard and those that have been shipped in from farther away. Does that mean that I don’t eat burgers and fries? Far from it. But they’re made at home with ingredients that I can feel comfortable eating.  (My husband makes a mean blue cheese, bacon and caramelized onion burger. Meat-induced comas are imminent.)

What do you think? Has the organic/local food movement gone too far? Should Morgan Spurlock and Michael Pollan just shut up already? Are you comfortable with the food you eat?

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~ by foodNURD on April 21, 2010.

4 Responses to “Decisions, decisions.”

  1. I made a descision to do away with almost all red meat in general, a great deal of processed food and no soft drinks or sugary bevs and my body has thanked me for it. Be truthful with yourself and answer the last time you felt FANTASTIC from eating a big meal from KFC or another big biz killer. If you listen and observe what feedback your body is giving you after eating sensibly you’ll be thanking it back.

  2. Education is never a bad thing. Food has become extremly trendy over the last couple of years, there is an entire channel dedicated to food, more cookbooks than ever before, magazines about food and the age of the celebrity chef is upon us. Yet with all of this information and interest there is still a large percentage of people who have no interest in eating a healthy well balanced diet. They would rather order a greasy burger the size of a small town with processed cheese and meat that’s been frozen and shipped in from god knows where, or enjoy genetically modified deep fried chicken parts, with mashed potatoes, a gravy like substance,cheese and corn all in a single bowl I might add. These people generally don’t want to know how bad the food that they are eating is and some even resent it when others try to help or steer them in a healthier direction (ala Jamie Oliver). So has the movement gone too far?, should the Morgan Spurlock’s of the world shut up? No, because for all the people who eat crap and think that taco bell is authentic mexican food there are people who generally care about where there food comes from and what they put in the bodies, and there is a whole generation of kids that have no idea about what is being fed to them, but they should and how else will they learn. By the way I do make an awesome burger with real meat and real blue cheese!

  3. Look, I’m the last person to point a finger at someones’ bad eating habits. I’ve worked in both a slaughterhouse and a fast food place. Trust me, I know what I’m putting into my mouth when I grab a Big Mac or factory chicken. I’ve come home with chicken blood in my hair and stinking of deep fried shit. I’m one of those that are quite aware of what we’re eating. And some people just don’t care.

    It’s that simple. For the vast majority of people, it’s a lack of education of what they’re doing to their bodies when they eat this food. Once educated…some just don’t care. It’s like giving the middle finger to mortality, in their minds. Is it stupid? Fuckin’ eh! But some people are stupid, not just ignorant. They will willfully damage their long term health out of sheer stuborness. Like Jay said, there is so much information out there about food and what is good for you and what isn’t, that there really is no excuse to be completly ignorant. So you’re left with a large group of people who just don’t care.

  4. Petar: I’ve known you for years and would not classify you as stupid or ignorant. (You’re welcome.) So when you grab a meal from Mickey D’s, how do you feel about it?

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