Since the 2017 fall quarter, my friends and I have been working out regularly at the IMA, putting in about 1-2 hours every day. There, we often overhear conversations about fats, carbs, and proteins. We also talk about food a lot, and we never realized we acquired a different way of talking and thinking when it comes to food. What stands out to me the most is how nutrients plays a vital and political role in our modern society.
In Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, he points out that “scientific reductionism” helped codify the official dietary language we speak today. Now being more conscious of my food, I commodify whatever is on my plate into compounds, distinguishing what is protein, how much carbs I want to eat, and how much fat I have already eaten. Visiting the gym where food is nearly always addressed in its basic nutritional forms, I had unconsciously adopted this classification as my way of looking at what I eat.
However, what I found most disturbing in Pollan’s In Defense of Food was his whole subchapter on “Pay More, Eat Less.” I know this is a required reading for class, but once I reached that section, I thought it would be difficult for me to finish reading the book. I am not sure why I felt so much distaste for Pollan’s eating strategies at the time. Perhaps it was the digestion of previous sections like “If You Have the Space, Buy a Freezer” and “Eat Wild Foods When You Can,” that built up to my stomachache. But I think the real reason is because mostly everything he said is unrealistic and unattainable, at least for me.
I think Pollan’s methods are so unrealistic because of many factors, such as time, money, and location. I commute to school every day; I leave around 8:00 a.m., attend all my classes, and arrive back at home usually around 7:00 p.m. Pollan wants everyone to cook their own meals, since he sees that as an indicator of how healthy a person is. From discussions in class, cooking normally takes around 2-3 hours, depending on the type of food you’re making, and how much of it you plan to cook. Given my personal schedule, this means after arriving home around 7:00 p.m., the earliest I could potentially be eating dinner if I followed what Pollan says, would be around 9:00 p.m. Not only that, I would have to cook for my family of 5, which would take even longer!
Both my mom and dad work, sometimes coming home later than I do. When we go grocery shopping, the money we spend is the money they earn. I know for a fact if I asked my parents to switch to spending more money on organic food, which is more expensive, they would be angry, simply because why would we pay more for less? And in terms of shopping at a farmers’ market, I can only think of Pike Place Market, PCC, and Whole Foods as the closest matches for a true farmers’ market. Even so, those stores are still quite some distance away from where I live. And they don’t sell the authentic Chinese and other Asian foods that we like – and if they did, it’s still over-priced. Ultimately, I think Pollan overlooks how expensive and unrealistic it is for most people to live by his “dietary strategies” in modern society, particularly when it comes to buying and storing half a steer, or growing a personal crop of wild purslane.