Bookmarks Issue: 

An Eater’s Manifesto

A-In Defense of FoodIn The Omnivore’s Dilemma ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection July/Aug 2006), Michael Pollan examined our food’s origin in enlightening—and sometimes disturbing—detail. This follow-up argues that food is much more than the sum of its component parts and that Americans have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to their faddish food ways. For more than 30 years, "nutritionism," the rise of the industrial-food complex, and our own poor self-image have worsened many of the problems—heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension among them—plaguing a society that has forgotten how to eat. Pollan’s mantra isn’t the sort of voodoo that we’ve come to expect from our food gurus (even the "scientific" results the media feeds us are questionable, he proclaims), but just good advice: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
Penguin. 256 pages. $21.95. ISBN: 1594201455

Boston Globe 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Pollan’s accessible, meticulously researched book will be essential reading for anyone who takes food seriously. His manifesto may seem simple … but adopting it wholeheartedly would create a revolution in our nation’s eating habits." Chuck Leddy

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Pollan subtitles his new book An Eater’s Manifesto, but he’s way too polite to tell us what to eat. Instead, he uses his familiar brand of carefully researched, common-sense journalism to persuade, providing guidelines and convincing arguments." Susan Salter Reynolds

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[A] tough, witty, cogent rebuttal to the proposition that food can be reduced to its nutritional components without the loss of something essential. … In this lively, invaluable book—which grew out of an essay Mr. Pollan wrote for The New York Times Magazine, for which he is a contributing writer—he assails some of the most fundamental tenets of nutritionism." Janet Maslin

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"In Defense of Food … is about eating well. … It’s a smart, refreshing take on the traditional January topic: diet advice from a man who clearly loves to eat." Colette Bancroft

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s not that hard if, like Pollan, you live in Berkeley, where Alice Waters is guide and guru, to shop carefully at farmers’ markets and specialty stores, to spend more to get better stuff, to cook your meals, and to eat them slowly and at a table with good company. … And, in the end, this thoughtful, entertaining and helpful book does wind up being a little more alarmist than Pollan pretends it is." Charles Matthews

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 of 5 Stars
"When a book like this comes along, people tend to embrace it as the gospel truth—and in a lot of ways it is. … Turns out the new story sounds a lot like the old." China Millman

Critical Summary

Berkeley, California-based journalism professor and New York Times Magazine contributing writer Michael Pollan, whose previous work on the subject includes The Botany of Desire and the best-selling The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has placed himself at the forefront of food writing. He preaches a back-to-basics approach and a close questioning of the avalanche of information that has come out of our diet-obsessed society. Despite the accusations of a few critics as being a little alarmist, a little elitist, and a little obvious (not everyone has the access to or the resources to eat the food Pollan suggests), the book encourages a simple approach to eating that will strike a chord with readers weary of conflicting information and unrealistic weight-loss and wellness programs. So the message of the book and its well-written delivery can’t be faulted. The question is, do we need to hear it all again?