Thanks to everyone who has sent nice notes about my mom. She’s doing better than we thought – they downgraded (upgraded?) her diagnosis from Stage III to Stage I lung cancer (for those of you fortunate enough not to be fluent in cancer-speak, this is a good thing) and we are hopeful that surgery can take care of it. So keep sending her good thoughts and, if you smoke, quit, damn it!
Meanwhile, I am suffering from a surfeit of comfort food (who knew you could have too much) and looking for a healthier path to tread. Nothing extreme, I just don’t want to feel like a slug. Lo and behold, the answer was in yesterday’s New York Times. I have decided to go on the Michael Pollan diet.
Pollan, in case you don’t know, is the author of the best book I read last year -– The Omnivore’s Dilemma -- a thoughtful, provocative exploration of the sources of our food. He had a piece in the New York Times Magazine called “Unhappy Meals,” where he basically sums up a semester’s worth of my food and politics class in 10,000 words. (I’m linking to it here -– you may need to register to read it but it’s free. After about 7 days they will probably archive it and then you have to pay. It’s worth it.)
Essentially Pollan says we have forgotten how to eat because we have been led astray by the myopia of our science and the greed of our politicians. We need to learn to eat the way we used to. In his words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Wait, it gets better. Really. At the end of the 10,000 words he elaborates on this with nine “rules of thumb:"
1. Eat food, by which he means whole foods our great-great-grandmothers would have recognized as food. No Go-Gurt. No pop tarts. No diet colas. No highly processed and refined anything, no matter how many vitamins and nutrients have been added back in.
2. Avoid foods that make grandiose claims about how good they are for us. The best foods don’t brag (or, in his words, don’t miss the silence of the yams.)
3. Avoid foods whose ingredients are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than five in number, or contain high fructose corn syrup.
4. Shop at farmers markets when you can. The food is better quality, and less processed.
5. “Pay more, eat less.” Everyone knows that eating less is better than eating more, it’s just that the food lobbies stop the government from telling us so since it will hurt their pocketbooks. Screw the food lobbies. Enjoy smaller amounts of higher quality (organic!) foods and feel better.
6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Treat meat as a side dish, or a flavoring.
7. “Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional culture are generally healthier than we are. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t a healthy diet, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around.”
8. Cook and garden.
9. Eat like an omnivore. Add more species to your diet – right now 2/3 of the human diet comes from corn, soybeans, wheat and rice and that is not nutritionally diverse enough to sustain health. (I know, I know, you big meat eaters don’t think that’s true, but as molecular analysis will reveal, most of the beef you eat is just processed corn.)
So… Not too taxing, not too scary. I’ve been doing some of those things anyway. I don’t really eat meat, I eat a lot of vegetables, and I love leaves. (This article told me what that’s called, by the way – turns out I am a flexitarian.) But I’ve been eating way too much cheese and butter lately and my record with processed and refined foods is sad.
Hence, endives for lunch! I love endives, but since they aren’t made from white flour I haven’t seen them in my fridge lately. I braised these – cut them in half, seared them in (a little bit of) butter, drizzled some broth on them, salted and peppered, scattered a handful of chopped kalamata olives over the top and dotted them with goat cheese (I used a Capriole Farms Piper’s Pyramide I got at the Winter Market on Saturday though feta is also good on this.) Covered the dish with foil and baked for 40 minutes at 350. Ate it hot for lunch with crusty bread and snacked on it cold a couple of hours later. Both were excellent.