Tuesday, October 30, 2012

RR: The Omnivore's Dilemma (Part I): NYT ~ The Island Where People Forget to Die


The other night I was eating dinner with Kalamazoo College's professor Leslie Tung.  Over our school-provided dinner of chicken, zucchini  and pasta salad, we discussed the meal and how much better it made our bodies feel then the typical processed foods I had been grabbing lately for conveniences sake.  Dr. Tung referenced a New York Times Article called "The Island Where People Forgot To Die", in which a man miraculously manages to beat cancer and live a long and fruitful life.  Studies at the University of Athens show that people on Ikaria where setting records such as "reaching the age of 90 at two and a half times the rate Americans do... [and] were also living about 8 to 10 years longer before succumbing to cancers and cardiovascular disease, and they suffered less depression and about a quarter the rate of dementia. "  Whether it's the air, the soil, the more relaxed style, or as Dr. Tung speculated "all those good oils" in the food, there's something about Ikaria that helps peoples health.  
In the Omnivore's dilemma the introduction talks about how americans experienced "a collective spasm of what can only be described as carbophobia" as bread became the villan and meat once again became an amicable friend.  There always seems to be a new diet or lifestyle choice or set of standards and rules, all promising thinner waistlines and healthier mentalities.  Personally, I think instead of focusing on what we eat, how we eat should be the focus.  In Food and Travel Writing we've read many texts such as Stealing Buddha's Dinner and essays which reference the "buffet" or America's tendency to overeat for the sake of bang vs. buck, such as beefsteaks.  Food becomes a substance abuse.  "there are other countries, such as Italy and France, that decide their dinner questions on the basis of such quaint and unscientific criteria as pleasure and tradition, eat all manner of "unhealthy" foods, and, lo and behold, wind up actually healthier and happier in their eating then we are." [3]  If instead of calories we focused on the quality of our food, I honestly think we'd come out better on the other end.
As someone who in the past has had difficulty with self-image and weight, and is still fighting to balance chemicals in my brain, I'm finding that my new eating habits are impacting my personal battle in a positive way.  Instead of calories, I focus on nutrients and food groups.  I feel better, mentally and physically, when I eat things that are filling and make me happy.  Happy is key.  I've been cooking with butter instead of less-caloric substitutes, because frankly my body feels better afterwards, even if it means I need to burn off more later.  Instead of skipping dessert completely or loading up on processed cookies, I make a small mix of nuts and bitter dark chocolate and butterscotch drops.  In some ways, this new approach to food reminds me of the New York Times Article.  I love eating, and I now love what I eat.
 That being said, once in a while I want processed foods like chicken nuggets.  McDonalds, like for Michael Pollan's son, becomes a treat.  It's true that a lot of these chains "[deny] the denier" [110] by putting in a "salad or veggie burger", which I'm guessing has its own processed chemical concoction in the mix.  After reading Part I of The Omnivore's Dilemma and corn's impact, I'm now more skeptic of everything processed.  From my calorie counting days (and Pollan's narrative), I know corn packs a punch.  But it's more than that.  I don't know where my food comes from.  I'm now jealous of my friends who take the time to know exactly where their produce and meat come from before they consume it, because they know what chemicals are or aren't possibly affecting their system.  Everything super-marketed now feels like a secret toxin.  Like the discussion during Colin's CYOA, I have to pick my poison on a budget.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely agree with you that how we eat is nearly as crucial as what we eat, and there hasn't been near as much focus on that in public discourse. But as tough as it would be to revolutionize our food system, I think changing the way we eat would require a complete overhauling of nearly every value that shapes our culture.