Monday, January 29, 2007

Eat and grow large with food

The NYTimes has a great piece by Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore's Dilemma. He claims the great disconnect that led Americans down the unhealthy eating path was the switch to discussing food in terms of nutrition rather than, well, food. He points to interest group pressure as one reason. The cattle industry was none too keen on the call to eat less meat, leading the government to call for eating less fat. Pollan ends the piece with a list of things to do, many of which, I believe, come from his book. Most are obvious, but the most interesting is the idea to spend more on less food. The local organic stuff is more expensive but it is better for you and you will be healthier if you eat less of it.

The cattle industry issue raises the question of interest groups. Interest groups get a bad name in US politics, which is unfair. People organize into interest groups to push their agendas. This is healthy as it shapes debate in the direction that people want. In almost every case, some other interest group or groups will join the debate. In a Hegelian way, the thesis and counterthesis will tend to move policy in the right direction. The one place this fails is when consumers are involved. There is no interest group to represent the broad needs of the consumer. So when the beef industry quashes an attempt to get people to eat more healthfully, there is no one to speak against the idea.

In a food related book story, I just started Heat, which is about a writer working in Mario Batali's kitchen.

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