Welcome to Articles Club, an online reading community focused on unearthing the art of eating and creating a home. It’s hosted by Andrea DeVries and Abigail Murrish who take turns sharing pertinent articles on their blogs every Monday and asking questions to spur lively and kind conversation. To learn more about Articles Club and the folks behind it, click here and here.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the inaugural post of Articles Club. Andrea and I could not be more thrilled you’ve stopped by! Here’s a brief run through of what to expect in Articles Club posts:
- An intro to the article: This is the “why” behind sharing the day’s article. It won’t be more than three short paragraphs.
- The article’s first paragraphs: We’re going to help you start reading the article right here on our blogs.
- A link to the article: After we share the first few paragraphs, there will be a link to take you to the article
- Questions: We want you to participate in the discussion aspect of Articles Club and the questions are there for you! You can answer them one by one, or compose a more cohesive comment and use the questions as a launching pad. Don’t feel obligated to answer them all. They’re merely a tool.
- Your thoughts: We want to know what you think about what we share. Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments. Remember — the goal is growing in understanding and sharing our perspectives and experiences. Keep it civil, classy and kind.
So without further ado, welcome to Articles Club!
I debated whether or not to start with an article by Michael Pollan. He’s a divisive figure– most either love him or hate him. I feared his name alone would isolate some while emboldening his zealots. But I want this to be a place where we embrace the tension that exists when we seek to build community with and learn from those who think and approach topics differently that we do. In that vein, I kick-off Articles Club with a Pollan article.
When I read Pollan’s work, I usually squirm inside and clench my teeth. He grossly misrepresents agribusiness. His views on commodity crops and livestock are simplistic and don’t account for the intricacies of our remarkable food system. He distorts the average American farmer, disparaging their vocation of producing food and caring for the earth.
But when he’s right, he’s very right. He asks hard questions that the food/ag community needs to answer. Pollan was the first voice I heard in the food/ag conversation who integrated sociology into his views. His example showed me that I didn’t need to ignore my Christian faith and love of culture when discussing food and ag. For that reason alone, I’m indebted to him.
You’ll benefit from his pithy writing and thought-provoking perspective on what we eat and how we live.
Every trip to the supermarket these days requires us to navigate what has become a truly treacherous food landscape. I mean, what are we to make of a wonder of food science like the new Splenda with fiber? (“The great sweet taste you want and a little boost of fiber.”) Should we call this progress? Is it even food? And then, at the far other end of the nutritional spectrum, how are we to process (much less digest) the new, exuberantly caloric Double Down sandwich that KFC has introduced? This shameless exaltation of dietary fat actually redefines the very concept of a sandwich by replacing the obligatory bread with two slabs of fried chicken kept some distance apart by strips of bacon, two kinds of cheese and a dollop of sauce.
Deciding what to eat, indeed deciding what qualifies as food, is not easy in such an environment. When Froot Loops can earn a Smart Choices check mark, a new industrywide label that indicates a product’s supposed healthfulness, we know we can’t rely on the marketers, with their dubious health claims, or for that matter on the academic nutritionists who collaborate on such labeling schemes. (One of them defended the inclusion of Froot Loops on the grounds that they are better for you than doughnuts. So why doesn’t the label simply say that?) Making matters worse, official government pronouncements about eating aren’t necessarily much more reliable, not when the food industry influences federal nutrition guidelines. But even when the “best science” prevails, that science can turn out to be misguided as when the official campaign against saturated fat got us to trade butter for stick margarine loaded with trans fats, a solution that turned out to be worse than the problem.
If we can’t rely on the marketers or the government or even the nutritionists to guide us through the supermarket woods, then who can we rely on? Well, ask yourself another question: How did humans manage to choose foods and stay healthy before there were nutrition experts and food pyramids or breakfast cereals promising to improve your child’s focus or restaurant portions bigger than your head?
“Rules to Eat By” Questions (answer in comments section)
1. How do you make decisions about what foods to purchase and prepare? Habit? Science? Family tradition?
2. Have your perceptions of “healthy food” changed over time? If so, how and why?
3. What are your “rules to eat by” and where did they originate?
4. How should we balance science and personal culture?
5. Check out Pollan’s favorite “food rules” he received from readers (hosted at the New York Times). Which rule resonates with you the most?