Small Streams

Pollan on Rational Eating
August 2, 2009, 9:00 am
Filed under: food, health | Tags: , , ,

Michael Pollan’s latest in the NYT Mag covers the rise of cooking shows and decline of cooking. He makes the point that even as we watch more cooking shows, we cook less and eat more.

Those who are enabling this transition, the people of the prepared food industry, have no interest in a return to increased cooking time. In fact, they are only trying to channel military capabilities into a (relative) peace-time economy.

Those corporations have been trying to persuade Americans to let them do the cooking since long before large numbers of women entered the work force. After World War II, the food industry labored mightily to sell American women on all the processed-food wonders it had invented to feed the troops: canned meals, freeze-dried foods, dehydrated potatoes, powdered orange juice and coffee, instant everything. As Laura Shapiro recounts in “Something From the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America,” the food industry strived to “persuade millions of Americans to develop a lasting taste for meals that were a lot like field rations.” The same process of peacetime conversion that industrialized our farming, giving us synthetic fertilizers made from munitions and new pesticides developed from nerve gas, also industrialized our eating.

Pollan spends a good deal of time grousing about television’s portrayal of cooking, particularly The Food Network’s: lots of flash and virtuosity that keeps the viewer watching but uninspired to cook. This is for the most part true, though my kids tend to kitchen adventures after an episode or two of Alton Brown’s “Good Eats.”

It would be better if Pollan dove into a little field reportage, or if he wrote about his own eating and cooking habits. Rather than nagging about the flawed behavior of others, perhaps, like Barbara Kingsolver, Pollan is on the verge of writing about how a food revolution, a revolution where we spend longer growing, cooking, and eating will transform us.

Fun facts found along the way:

Snopes on the egg in the cake mix.

1 Comment so far
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I heard Pollan on Fresh Air and he’s still flogging the cake mix myth even though he cites Laura Shapiro.

Comment by smallstreams

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