Rules of Thumb

Kind of like how Christians have the "11th Commandment" - Do Unto Others - that encompasses all of the previous ten, Michael Pollan has recently offered a one-size-fits-all rule for eating Real Food: 'Don't buy any food you've ever seen advertised - the real food is not being advertised - and that's all you really need to know."

"Summer summer fruit, it wouldn't be summer withouuuuuut 'em" "Got milk?" and "The Incredible Edible Egg" are ad jingles and slogans that have me wondering if fruit, milk and eggs are disqualified as real food because their respective suppliers' associations spent some portion of the members' annual dues to advance the industry through advertising. One the one hand, this is blatant advertisement. On the other, I know my great-great-grandmothers would recognize each as food.

This puzzle leads me back to Pollan's previous nine Rules of Thumb suggested in his article Unhappy meals I aim to follow these in my quest to eat (and to feed my family) Real Food. Paraphrased in parts, and directly copied in others, from the article:

1. Eat food. Or, don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

2. Avoid products that come bearing health claims. Don't take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about health. (The silence of the yams...I love that.)

3. Especially avoid food products with ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than five in number or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.

4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.

5. Pay more, eat less. Paying more for food well grown in good soils will contribute not only to your health (by reducing exposure to pesticides) but also the the health of other who may not be able to afford that sort of food: the people who grow it and the people downwind and downstream of the farms where it is grown.

6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Scientists may disagree on what it is that is so good for us about plants but they do agree that they're probably really good for you.

7. Eat more like the French. or the Japanese. Or the Italians. or the Greek. People who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are.

8. Cook. And if you can , plant a garden. To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting process of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values implicit in it: that food should be cheap and easy; that food is fuel and not communion.

9. Eat like and omnivore. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases.

These nine steps seem to me a reliable guide for reducing the processed/packaged foods we rely heavily on in our house. Some will be easier than others - I love to cook and have started a (limited) garden. On the other hand, if I were French, or Japanese or Italian or Greek or a member of any identifiable culture, I might know a tradition to turn to first. But it should be a fun experiment to pick some of the nationalities we are rumored to have in our history and research what my great-great-grandmothers might have served to their families.