I am very pleased to state that after reading Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, my tally of my family’s (my wife and I, that is) compliance is 60 of the 64 “rules” for eating well (94%). Not only that, but for each rule we are almost 100% adherent, i.e. we are fully there and not just “trying”. Most instructive however are the rules where we are struggling:
37. The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead”.
Man we love a crusty French baguette! And pasta! Not the whole grain cardboard pasta that one chokes down like medicine, but really good semolina pasta smothered in tomato sauce, or olive oil and garlic with a grating of bottarga! And while we really like mixed varietal whole grain rice, is there anything better than a bowl of steamed white rice with Asian food? Interestingly, Pollan points out that the French manage to maintain an absolutely sterling health profile eating precisely this way, something he attributes to the way they eat rather than the what, i.e. eating slowly in a communal setting and focusing on pleasure and satisfaction means that they eat far less quantity than other Westerners.
45. “Eat Less”.
Still a tough one. Even though we eat small portions throughout the day and eat quite slowly savoring the food, we really have a problem with after-dinner snacking in front of the tube. I call the zone between 8-11 PM, the “Dark Hours” because I’m capable of eating my entire day’s calories all over again in that narrow time zone. And it gets much worse in Winter when it’s dark earlier and brutally cold outside – I just want to hibernate.
47. “Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored”. An extension of #45 above.
58. “Do all your eating at a table”. Not quite there yet. I’d say we eat dinner in front of the TV probably 3 times a week, usually because we’ve gotten home late and dinner is ready right around the time of a favorite program.
So still lots of room for improvement, but I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made over the last ten years in bringing some sanity and pleasure to one of the most important and enjoyable of human activities. Perhaps the most significant driver has been the shift from eating out to cooking at home. Pollan captures that in his Rule # 63: “Cook”, but I think it should be Rule #1. It’s very difficult to take control of what you eat when someone else is choosing the ingredients and the cooking methods…and trying to make a profit at the same time..