A few years ago I was innocently driving my car and listening to NPR when I heard an interview with a man I’d never heard of named Michael Pollan. I was so captivated by what he had to say that I immediately went out and bought his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Now, I don’t want to say that was my first mistake, but reading that book made me feel like Neo must have felt in The Matrix: Once I knew the truth about industrial farming and industrially processed foods—and what those foods are really made of and how they affect our health and the planet—I could never go back to my blissful pre-Pollan existence. No more Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Velveeta, Coffee Mate.
Since then I’ve read many other books on related subjects, including Pollan’s follow-up to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, called In Defense of Food, and its follow-up, Food Rules. I also read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by one of my favorite authors Barbara Kingsolver (the introduction to that book is a masterpiece); Real Food by Nina Planck, and recently Food Matters by Mark Bittman, who really does know how to cook everything, by the way. Whew, that’s a lot of reading about food. But I highly recommend all of the above, especially The Omnivore’s Dilemma – unless, however, you like your life (and refrigerator) the way it is…
Since I’ve been living on this side of the (food) Matrix, I’ve become the type of person who snoops in other people’s shopping carts and cringes at the sight of Scooby Doo yogurt and Trix and Smuckers Uncrustables (and don’t even get me started about Lunchables) — and who finds myself wanting to tap another mom on the shoulder when she’s pulling out her kids’ picnic lunch at the park and politely say, “Excuse me, but did you know that Gogurt is not food?”
Well, I am too well bred for that, so here I am writing about it instead. It’s a bit of a lonely place here on this side of the Matrix. Want to join me?