Just in time for our holiday-overeating guilt to set in, Food Rules, Michael Pollan's latest, has been released. The sliver of a book is based on his mantra: Eat food. Mostly plants. But not much. And divided into the three categories of 64 rules—rules, that for many of us in SF, can seem commonplace: #15: Get out of the supermarket whenever you can. #25: Eat your colors. #30: Eat well-grown food From healthy soil. #51: Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it. Each rule has a little paragraph of explanation but not much else.
Pollan's schtick has always been that eating shouldn't be something one has to think about too much (if you do, you've got it all wrong). He's not a fan of fad diets. Don't get him started on package labels that include ingredients that aren't immediately recognizable. In fact, he'd really rather we just do away with packaged foods altogether if possible. (Let's just say you can't pin a bar code on a wild boar.)
But although this new rule book is based on this premise, and in essence is a great idea, it does away with what I really love most about reading Pollan's work: his writing. Pollan has long been one of my true idols (oh, if I could only write like Michael Pollan!—everyone close to me has heard me go on about this before). There aren't many people that can get across information of the scientific type with such humanity, humor and humility. To put it bluntly: Pollan has the rare ability to preach the sustainable gospel without sounding like a pompous ass.
His writing is why I believe in him ultimately, and Food Rules as a book meant to stand on its own—without being thought of as a companion to all of his other books—seems to fall a little short for some of us Pollan fans. However, there are plenty of people out there, for whom this might just be what the doctor ordered.