Eat Real Food

Eat Real Food

I’ve read several articles in the last few days that have me all het up about the food thing. There seems to be a new and annoying meme out there, that eating real food will make one a “slave” to one’s kitchen. That somehow, “cooking from scratch” is so difficult and so time-consuming that no one can really do it. It’s just too hard.

Well maybe it’s too hard if you’re being an obsessive yuppie about it. People, grow some common sense. Exhibit A is this article in the Sacramento News Review, “Fast vs. Food: How the sustainable-food movement drove one busy family to the brink and back again.” Like a number of articles on this topic I’ve seen lately, the author seems to take an all-or-nothing approach. Either they’re making all their own bread, pizza dough, eating only from CSA boxes and going to the Farmers Market or they’re eating microwave meals from Trader Joes. Or then there was this one, featured on CNN.com, “An Inconvenient Challenge, Eat ‘Real Food’ For a Month” in which Jennifer McGruther, food blogger at The Nourished Kitchen is so restrictive about her definition of “real food” that she has people throwing out everything in their pantries, including dried pasta, and flour — she’s telling people to grind their own flour for goodness sake.

People, this is not helping.

While I realize that part of the appeal for the media is that there’s a meme to be driven — “eating real food is just too hard!” it’s also being driven by the sort of obsessive, perfectionistic, “lifestyle-driven” behavior that gives the whole food movement a bad name. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It can be whatever you can do. I was so aggravated that I emailed my friend Nina, who has five kids, and who cooks them dinner every night because well, we’re midwesterners, we cook dinner. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been at Nina’s any number of times when we’ve ordered pizza (although her kids don’t like the local pizza, which is sort of amusing). Nina’s response was:

I’m just sick of a certain sector of privileged Americans over-thinking and over-classifying everything. Just cook for your kids and cook with your kids whenever possible. Go to the farmer’s market and buy organic when you can. Do what you can because you want to not because you are nailing yourself to the Cross of “slow, organic, homemade, gourmet” or whatever kind of food. My kids usually get organic but I buy bagged stuffing sometimes, instead of pulling my own bread. I make gravy but then serve frozen green beans. Who cares!!!!

Here’s the deal folks. It’s not that complicated. As Michael Pollan keeps repeating ad nauseum “Eat real food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” Go to the grocery store and buy real food. You know, vegetables, pasta, meat, milk, whatever … Avoid things in shiny packages. Buy organic if you can. Buy good meat if you can – -meat that hasn’t been in a feedlot or an industrial packing plant. Why would you buy a frozen pasta meal when it takes just as long to cook some noodles and saute some veggies with chicken or fish or a little meat? I don’t get it. Our parents cooked us dinner every night, and did dishes, and it wasn’t some dreaded life sentence. It’s just dinner. Cook with your kids. Have them help with the dishes — remember chores? Chores aren’t a bad thing.

And sure, if you want to pull some stunt, go ahead. But don’t confuse stunt cooking with ordinary, everyday, cooking cooking. It’s just cooking people, it’s not rocket science.

3 thoughts on “Eat Real Food

  1. “Parent cooks mostly healthy dinner for child” is not a news story. And it SHOULDN’T BE! It’s just what we do…

  2. Did you hear this? Michael Pollan on All Things Considered: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124277131

    You know what, you should do a spoof of those articles. You should write a story about a person who tries desperately to follow Michael Pollan’s sensible rules and, I don’t know, AGONIZES over whether Cheetos qualify as “food” or whether she can buy a product that has 5 ingredients instead of just the 4, like organic crackers… It could be really funny…

  3. Somebody write a riff about American puritanism being at it again. It must be about *needing* to feel driven and overworked. You’re *allowed* to enjoy yourself, for God’s sake. Of course, if someone doesn’t want to (which is a different question than not knowing how to…yet), let’s tiptoe out of the room and leave them to their own commiseration. But close the door behind you. I don’t want to hear their sighing after a life “under the Tuscan sun” while I’m shaking a good martini out on the porch under the very sun that’s right above me.

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