In case, for whatever reason, you are just reading this one post I feel the need to give you some context. Michael Pollan has a new book coming out, a book I am still getting to at some future date. In preparation for reading this, I thought it might be a good idea for me to read some of his previous work. I started with The Botany of Desire, and next read The Omnivores Dilemma. I thought I recognized a pattern that really interested me, so I went back and started reading his books in order from the beginning.
This is all relevant because In Defense of Food is the book that follows The Omnivores Dilemma. I can tell you then with great certainty that In Defense of Food is the culmination of what he has learned from his life and research of the previous four books. In Defense of Food is not a simple rehash it is a culmination of acquired knowledge.
As is now Pollan’s norm In Defense of Food is broken into four parts. Previously, in Botany of Desire, and The Omnivores Dilemma each new part builds narratively on its predecessor. In Defense of Food uses these parts more as thesis, antithesis, synthesis and now how do we apply this knowledge. (pssst! You eat food, not too much, mostly plants. That is not a spoiler it is on the cover.)
I very much enjoyed this book. I suspect it may have a lasting impact on how I eat. Only time and probably me at a future date will tell how that story ends. Do you sense a “but” coming? There’s a “but” coming. The first section was hard for me to get through. But, see what I did there, that’s because In Defense of Food has a different agenda.
One of the things I love most about Pollan’s storytelling is his voice. He’s like that smart but totally not pretentious friend you have who you regard as an expert on a certain subject. You regard your friend as super credible because they know what they know and what the don’t. For example, your friend Michale will totally share candidly with you how he got curious about the “natural” history of the Apple in America. He will tell you everything you learned and how he learned it. You’ll know what he knows for certain, what he’s uncertain about, even what he’d like to believe but there is no way prove. What’s not to love.
That voice is largely missing in the first part. I want to semi-jokingly suggest that it is replaced by Michael Pollan channeling his father the attorney. Attorney Michael has a case to prosecute against “nutritionism.” It’s a very strong case. I was convinced early on, but sadly I was not the target audience. The target audience is that one perhaps overzealouss juror who has deep taken to heart the words “reasonable doubt.” Attorney Michael’s job is not done until he has convinced “reasonable doubt juror.” Sigh, it’s a long trial.
But when the trial is over your friend Michael gradually becomes himself again. The rest of the book is much more in line with his normal voice and style. I was never able to really put the first section out of my head or heart for the rest of the book.