Michael Pollan: Food Rules

photo credit: Alia Malley
photo credit: Alia Malley

Michael Pollan, the author of In Defense of Food and the Omnivore’s Dilemma wants your help.

Pollan is asking his readers to send him the food rules that they try to live by?

You know, things like:

  • Eat your colors, or
  • the Japanese philosophy of “hara hachi bu” (“eat until you are four-fifths full”), or
  • Germany’s gustatory advice to “tie off the sack before it’s full”, or
  • the more modern belief that “It’s not food if it comes to you through the window of a car”, or
  • “If a bug won’t eat it, why would you?”

Pollan believes that, “in recent years, we’ve deferred to the voices of science and industry when it comes to eating, yet often their advice has served us poorly, or has merely confirmed the wisdom of our grandmother after the fact”.

And that’s why he wants to create a “compendium of such rules, across cultures and also time”.

To add your food rule to his list, go to his article in the Times and leave a comment.


Note: I am not sure what Pollan’s plan is for this list of food rules (new book perhaps), but this is a perfect example of how the wisdom of the crowd can be harnessed and put to good use.


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  1. Doug, One of the things with crowd control is that many voices can shout down wisdom and knowledge. I hope the real stuff gets plucked correctly.

  2. Yes, I see this as an effort in futility. I hope Mr. Pollan has hours to pick out the 1 useful tip for every 100 tips submitted. Not only do the majority of people have useless, baseless ideas, but I’m sure plenty of dolts will post garbage like “I only eat blue food!” Blah.

    To stay positive, I hope this works out well and I’d like to read the results some day.

  3. Personally, I wondered if perhaps Michael Pollan was making some sort of point — the fact that 1000+ people have responded, all with their various “rules” reminded me of something MP wrote a few years ago… called “Our National Eating Disorder” (published in NYTimes mag), the premise of which is that we’re a health-obsessed nation that is actually unhealthy! We’re so rules-dependant (and confused by the contridactory info), and rather than focusing on taste and enjoyment we count nutrients, follow fads, etc.

    I wonder if you posed this question (ie, what are your food rules?) to French people (or Italians or Spaniards), what their response would be. A raised eyebrow at the notion of having rules?

  4. Good point Emily.

    I think that while the idea of food RULES meshes nicely with the puritan background of the US., it wouldn’t work with the true Gallic French.

    But then again, traditional French bistros are being squeezed out of business by the encroachment of McDonalds and Subway, and as a result the French are getting just as fat and unhealthy as we are.

  5. that which comes through the window of your car does not count as food? Classic! Love it! That will be my new nutrition counselling mantra! Thanks for the great post!

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