Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Omnivore's Dilemma -- Not for This Vegetarian

My father and I have been having quite an online discussion about Michael Pollan, of The Omnivore's Dilemma fame, with whom I went to school from elementary to high school. Dad and I agree that Pollan is teaching those who can afford to learn the truth about their food supply. Others may not have the luxury.
But I had a thought about that. I wonder what kind of effect it would have on lives and health, personal and planetary, if just one day a week was reserved for whole grains and legumes, with a few veggies, of course. I imagine everyone cooking up a pot of brown rice and another of lentils (or their favorite bean) and that's what they eat for the day. It has to be less expensive than almost any other food -- fast or slow, and equally or more nourishing. You can likely feed a family of 4 for less than $5 including a bag of organic carrots or some other veggie. Now, how difficult is that?

Certainly the problem with our eating, as Pollan pointed out in a 10,000 word New York Times piece on food called Unhappy Meals is that what most people are eating is not food, per se, but something processed. We must get back to the basics which I have been espousing for far too long with the sound of my voice echoing. (What's the sound of one hand clapping?) Pollan, on the other hand, has a large audience. I can only hope that people will not only listen but make the requisite changes to upgrade their diets. This may involve going back to simpler, peasant-type fare. Funny but when I mention polenta to my culinary students, they often don't realize its humble beginnings. Now you pay $10 and up for a plate of it paired with a simple sauce. Not so funny but interesting.

Dad and I both agree with Pollan on a few points that he makes: eat more "food", the real stuff, get out of the supermarket whenever possible and support local farmers, eat mostly plant foods especially leafy greens, and if you are going to use meat, use it as a flavoring, a la Thomas Jefferson, with whom I share a birthday. (I'm also a TJ fan for many other reasons.)

Pollan suggests that cooking is also crucial but my Dad leaves that up to my mother, who has mastered making fresh food taste great. For those who need to learn, there are ways. Many of them call first for boiling water. And how hard is that?

You can always read my cookbook or watch my DVD to learn more. In the meantime, master cooking a pot of rice and beans or lentils. It could change your life.

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