Several years ago a friend gave me a copy of Michael Pollan‘s book In Defense of Food. She wrote a note to go with the gift: “Do not read until you are ready to make big changes, and now might not be the right time.”
I knew generally what the book was about, and I also knew that it was definitely not the right time. A new job for me, a new school for my children, and a looming list of house projects were, combined, more than I could handle in the first place. I was doing my best to hold to the basic rule of family eating I learned from my mother: dinner as a family, at the table, at least four nights a week, with proper place settings, and the same foods served to everyone – even, I rationalized, if it meant we all had cereal.
Earlier this month I decided it was finally time to think about eating food, not too much, mostly plants, and I downloaded the audiobook from audible. (The hard copy is still on my shelf). For the last three weeks I have spent my alone time in the car (post carpool drop-off) listening, and thinking about food.
Food and I have a long history. My grandfather was an organic farmer long before organic farming was cool, and certainly before the market boom. I remember looking at that less than perfectly-pretty produce and wondering if it was safe to eat. Ditto the eggs and fresh chicken. It all tasted different, I remember, from supermarket foods. Not that we did all that much supermarket shopping. My little sister was allergic to the synthetic iron in baby formula, so my mother was a health food store shopper for most of our growing-up years. She was also a firm believer in eating small portions of only the best and most enjoyable foods. She used real cream and real butter and didn’t think twice about seasoning with bacon fat. She was 5’2″ and never topped 110 pounds, even pregnant.
Reflecting on my mother, my grandparents and Pollan’s work, I am ready to commit, or recommit, to food. I doubt my family and I will come close to Pollan’s ideal, but there are a few simple things I know we can embrace, like not buying anything my grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food (sorry, kids, no more Go-gurt). I won’t make it to the farmer’s market every week or draw a hard organic-only line, but I will shop a little more carefully and eat a little less. And we’ll embrace Pollan’s favorite rules, which my mother would have thought only good common sense and manners, served with a little butter, and a glass of wine.
We’ll see how it goes.