food philosophy: February 2008 Archives

In Defense of Food

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Food may be a strange thing to feel the need to defend, but in his latest book, Michael Pollan explains: "For while it used to be that food was all you could eat, today there are thousands of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket."  These foodlike substances have risen out of food science and what Pollan calls "nutritionism," a food philosophy that pays more attention to the individual parts of food -- you know many them well: cholesterol, fiber, saturated fat, vitamins -- than to the sum of those parts.

in defense of food.jpgIn Part 1 of In Defense of Food, Pollan describes the evolution of nutritionism, while in Part 2 he describes how nutritionism is, counterintuitively, detrimental to our health.  "[There] is a global pandemic in the making, but a most unusual one, because it involves no virus or bacteria, no microbe of any kind -- just a way of eating."

It's funny -- although Pollan is obviously horrified by nutritionism, he is not immune from its clutch.  At one point, talking about omega-3 fatty acids, he says, "Could it be that the problem with the Western diet is a gross deficiency in this essential nutrient?"  But at least he's cognizant of his position, admitting that "the undertow of nutritionism is powerful, and more than once over the past few pages I've felt myself being dragged back under."  For those of us who grew up in the age of nutritionism, or really for anyone who has been shopping in supermarkets or watching television since the 1980s, it's hard not to think primarily about the nutrients in our food.  I feel like I'm stuck in the nutritionism matrix!

In Part 3, Pollan lays out a set of personal policies to guide readers in their eating choices.  This was the part I was really excited about reading -- and the part that Pollan set out to write after leaving his Omnivore's Dilemma readers with some questions about what the heck they should eat on a regular basis.  Happily for us, these guidelines are incredibly simple.

Eat Food: E.g., Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as a food, and Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.

Not too much: E.g., Do all your eating at a table (No, a desk is not a table), and Try not to eat alone.

Mostly plants: E.g., Eat well-grown food from healthy soils, and Have a glass of wine with dinner.

While I have to say that I enjoyed reading The Ominvore's Dilemma more, I'm very happy that I read In Defense of Food and got some perspective on a lifetime's worth of food brainwashing.


Late last year we read about T.W.Food (in Cambridge, MA) on Joe Slag's Food In Boston blog.  Last night we finally made it over there for a simply amazing seven-course dinner.

The owners, Tim and Bronwyn Wiechmann, explain their food philosophy on their menu: "At T.W.Food we seek out food that is raised in tune with the natural cycles of the earth. This means that our salt is hand harvested in Maine and our fish and shellfish are the ones found in season on the Eastern seaboard. We saute only in natural animal fat or VT cultured butter, and get our sweetness from local honey or sugar maple trees. We are very lucky to have local producers like Peter at Big Ox Farm in Concord or Tim at Grateful Farms in Franklin raising meats and vegetables to our tastes, so that our plates can speak distinctively to you with color, emotion, time, and place."

Tim told us that the veggies on the menu are the same every day throughout winter (because they come from his hand-built root cellar) but that the meats and the final preparations change every day.

And now, without further ado, we present the Celebration of Winter!

TW menu.jpgSHOOTER
duxbury oyster with essence of salsify and ginger

TW oyster shooter.jpgBOUDIN BLANC
farm pork with ragout of porcini mushroom and maple jus

TW pork.jpgESCABECHE
wild ice-fished river smelt, celery root salad and brioche

TW smelt.jpgMONKFISH
leek fondant, blood organge butter and anise crust

TW monkfish.jpgFARM RABBIT
braised and roasted roulade with puree of jerusalem artichoke and black truffle

TW rabbit.jpgCHEESE
parmigiano reggiano, lombardy, italy

TW cheese.jpgPROFITEROLES
apple-maple ice cream and bitter caramel sauce

TW profiteroles.jpg

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