“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

In Hawaii I finally got a chance to read Michael Pollan‘s latest upsetter in The New York Times Magazine, entitled Unhappy Meals.

I’m a little late – it was published a few weeks ago. Hopefully you read the piece, which started with these three loaded phrases: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Pollan’s latest piece is required reading for anyone who cares about what they put in their body, anyone who has dieted, anyone who buys Snackwell’s or related products claiming to help you lose weight, and anyone who thinks cooking is a curse God puts on those who only view food as fuel. If you’re busy, just read the first few paragraphs. C’mon. For me.

Pollan’s point is well made: as a society, we’ve made the leap from seeing food as food to seeing food as stacks of nutrients. Instead of learning to limit our general intake, we’ve found cell-sized culprits to blame for our fatty deposits. We’ve been brainwashed by scientists and journalists by an ideology Pollan digs out called “nutritionism,” which has lead us to eat foods humans might never eat if it weren’t for corporate food product giants and their pesky health claims. (Ever resorted to diet shakes?) He challenges us to redefine the word “food.”

I think his directive is spot-on. I should eat more food. Buttercream frosting is food; it’s made with butter and sugar. Canned frosting is not, it’s made with high-fructose corn syrup and many other things I’ve never seen growing and my body was not meant to digest. Steak is food. Packaged, frozen, chemicalized, low-fat salisbury steak is not. But I shouldn’t eat much buttercream or steak, even if it is real food. I should eat more plants, less meat, etc.

Oh, but you say THIS IS NOT NEWS. But it is. Pollan’s called out the diet industry, and I love it. He explains why foreigners’ waist sizes explode when they move to the US, and talks about a clinical trial that concluded that no, low-fat diets don’t necessarily allow people to live longer.

Oh, gosh, I was so worked up about this for about 5 days, and now all I can say is read it. It seems now that everything item I pass in the grocery store capitalizes on America’s dependence on nutritionism to sell more stuff. Even Trader Joe’s, that most revered of stores, sells two types of on-the-vine baby roma tomatoes: the regular kind ($3.19), and the “high-lycopene” kind ($3.99). Yes, the more expensive ones look more red. And yes, lycopene is the agent that makes many foods (tomatoes and watermelon among them) red. But I have to wonder: how much more lycopene does one need? I have been brainwashed into thinking I can’t get what my body needs from regular tomatoes.

So more leaves for us. (Mache and blood oranges are cheap right now at Trader Joe’s.)

Mache, Avocado, and Blood Orange Salad

Recipe for Mache, Avocado, and Blood Orange Salad
Recipe 46 of 365

Segmenting an orange is easier than it seems (of course, if you’re really not in the mood to do it, you can just put orange slices on the sides of the salad plate, diner-style). But if you’re feeling adventuresome, here’s how to segment: using a small sharp knife, cut both ends of an orange off, revealing the (in this case, red) flesh. Place the fruit one flat side-down and use the knife to carve the peel off, working in a semi-circular motion right under the innermost layer of white pith. Discard the peel, and use the knife to cut the individual orange segments out from between the layers of skin (like you do when you eat a grapefruit), leaving only the skin skeleton behind.

Almonds or walnuts would also be great on this salad.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1 4-ounce bag mache (lamb’s lettuce), watercress, or arugula
1 large avocado, sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
3 blood oranges, segmented
1/2 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
Ginger Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Place the mache, avocado, scallions, oranges, and feta in a salad bowl. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, and serve immediately.

Ginger Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk the ginger, rice wine vinegar, soy, honey, sesame oil, and a little salt and pepper together until well blended. Add the oil in a slow, steady stream while whisking, until all the oil has been incorporated. Stir again before using.

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Filed under commentary, Lunch, media, recipe, salad, vegetables

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