Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

Cooked
by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide

Food Rules: An Eater's Manual

 

by Michael Pollen
Penguin Press, November 2011
Paperback, 240 pages
ISBN: 978-1594203084

Review by Kate Padilla

I love Michael Pollan. I’ve loved him since reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma --which, admittedly, wasn’t that long ago--and I find myself actively searching the bookstore shelves for more. I love that he writes food science, still a new field, and I love that he writes in this field not from the perspective of a scientist, but rather from one of a journalist.

Pollan’s latest, Food Rules, isn’t a book about food science, the way that The Omnivore’s Dilemma is. This is not a book to keep in the study. This is a book to keep in the kitchen, next to the Betty Crocker cookbook and the increasing pile of Real Simpleand Taste of Home magazines. This is a book to shuffle through from time to time, perhaps in moments of doubt over New Year’s resolutions. This, unlike most scientific reading, is simple and easy to digest.

The concept for Food Rules came from writing his previous book, In Defense of Food. When Pollan set out to find an answer to the “supposedly incredibly complicated question of what we should eat,” he came to the annoying realization that his answer would not fill the hundreds of pages he had planned. In fact, his conclusion came down to seven words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

I find myself reciting these words as I peruse the grocery store on an average Sunday evening. They come to mind as I sit in my office chair thinking about the impending dinner meal. Such a simple mantra has transformed the way my husband and I view food: in the past three months I’ve lost almost 15 pounds; he’s lost 25. And we still eat bread.

Pollan fleshes these seven words into 64 paragraph-length rules, categorizing each rule. They’re each told with an element of wit that lightens the usually academic tone of a handbook. Rule #2 reflects back to Eat food, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” So much of our culture stresses about what to eat and when. Self-help and diet books fly off of the shelves come January and beach-season. Pollan reminds us here that the true benefit of food comes when the stress is removed. There is no formula. It’s being aware of what goes in our bodies.

Many of the rules sound more ridiculous than they are. For example, Rule #55: “Eat Meals.” Our first response is “duh,” but Pollan continues:

Sociologists and market researchers who study American eating habits no longer organize their results around the increasingly quaint concept of the meal: They now measure “eating occasions” and report that we have added to the traditional Big Three--breakfast, lunch, and dinner--an as yet untitled fourth daily eating occasion that lasts all day long: the constant sipping and snacking we do while watching TV, driving, working, and so on.

When I’m at the grocery store, I unconsciously turn to Rule #12, “Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.”

This book is pocket- and purse-sized, and it’s meant to be a guide. It would be very difficult to follow each of these rules exactly every day, but that was never Pollan’s intention:

Be sure to adopt at least one from each of the three sections, because each section deals with a different dimension of your eating life. … These rules offer screens or filters to help you tell the real food from the edible foodlike substances you want to avoid.

What Pollan emphasizes most in this book is the awareness of food. This book, more than any other diet book out there, will transform a food culture (just look at my husband and me). Of course, it is important to remember Rule #64: “Break the rules once in a while.”

 

August 2012