Eat Food, Not "Food"

Feb 13, 2008 at 4:00 am

Michael Pollan's new book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, answers the question posed by his revelatory 2006 tome, The Omnivore's Dilemma: What do I eat? The opening sentences state, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Catchy, yes, but Pollan needs 200 pages to unpack these seemingly simple sentences.

What are we eating if not food? Pollan makes clear that a reductive obsession with nutrients has caused us to enhance foods with the latest miracle cure and remove those we believe to be harmful. This has led to supermarkets full of processed food-like substances — not, Pollan argues, foods.

Pollan offers a handy, if imperfect, rule of thumb: Stick to the outer rim of the supermarket, where the fresh produce, meat and dairy are located, rather than the central aisles where the processed food is stacked. Better yet, go to farmers' markets instead of supermarkets.

More challenging than changing what we eat is changing how we eat. Pollan (and the French and others) believe food is a pleasure to be savored, not fuel. Serve smaller portions, eat slowly and don't go back for seconds. And — the most sensible and maybe the most difficult advice — pay more for smaller quantities of better food.

In Defense of Food might not be as brilliantly reported and beautifully written as The Omnivore's Dilemma, but its concise, forceful argument is just as important.

Those who like to lament the lack of barbecue joints near downtown should know that Pappy's Smokehouse is now open at 3106 Olive Street. Pappy's is smoking barbecue from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

New to 6311 Clayton Road in the Clayton-Richmond Heights area, across from Schnucks, is Katie's Pizzeria & Café.

Cielo is now serving contemporary Italian fare on the eighth floor of the Four Seasons Hotel above Lumière Place (999 North Second Street). The restaurant is open 6:30-10:30 a.m. for breakfast, 11:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for lunch and 6-10 p.m. for dinner. Cielo joins Asia and Hubert Keller's Burger Bar in Lumière Place's roster of high-end dining. Look for Keller's upscale steak house SleeK to open as early as March 1.

Tanner B's (2811 Shenandoah Avenue) has closed "for winter," according to a recorded phone message. No word yet on when — or if — the Tower Grove East restaurant and bar will reopen.

Got something else for Ian to chew on? E-mail him at [email protected]. And check out his Gut Check column online for frequent dining news updates.