Beyond the Book: Background information when reading In Defense of Food

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In Defense of Food

An Eater's Manifesto

by Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2008, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2009, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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The Slow Food Movement
The Slow Food movement began in Italy as a thoughtful protest against the arrival of American fast food in Rome in the 1980's. Seeking to promote an alternative to the Western diet and way of eating, eating slowly in the Slow Food sense means to eat with a full understanding and appreciation of every single step involved in bringing food from seed to table. This means a respect for the land and the labor, as well as for cooking and dining, that values quality over quantity and seeks to rebuild our connection to food that has been erased by modern production practices. The Slow Food movement promotes local, organic farming, local food cultures, and helps preserve heirloom varieties of produce and animals that have all but disappeared from our tables.

Called elitist by its critics because it rejects cheap methods of food production, Slow Food responds by insisting that it will ultimately prove to be cheaper as it relies less on fossil fuels for transportation and production. At the heart of it all, the Slow Food movement encourages eaters to take real pleasure in eating, to enjoy life with family and friends, and to be mindful of the people and places that provide for us.


Chances are you'll be moved to action by In Defense of Food, but you might need a little help on your revolutionary journey. A good place to start is to visit a farmer's market, a local farm, or even a restaurant that buys local meats and produce. Find one near you at LocalHarvest.org.


Here are some books to flesh out Pollan's ideas and help you bring them from market to table.

  • Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health by Marion Nestle. By explaining how much the food industry influences government nutrition policies and how cleverly it links its interests to those of nutrition experts, this path-breaking book helps us understand more clearly than ever before what we eat and why.
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. A powerful treatise on the impact of agribusiness and our global food trade on the environment and our families, and an impassioned argument for a eating locally.
  • What to Eat by Marion Nestle. Cited throughout In Defense of Food, this highly informed, revolutionary and indispensable guide through the tricky world of nutrition – and your supermarket -- is a perfect pairing with Pollan's work.
  • The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters. With her insistence on locally grown, seasonal produce, responsibly raised meats, whole grains, and the slow pleasures of cooking and dining mindfully, Waters is the perfect chef for Pollan.

Article by Lucia Silva

This article was originally published in January 2008, and has been updated for the April 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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