America’s National Eating Disorder.

Right after I finished A Widow for One Year, I plunged right into another book that’s been on my MUST READ (AS SOON AS I’VE CAUGHT UP ON ABOUT 7 YEARS’ WORTH OF LOST SLEEP) LIST: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.

And, like I’ve said before, if you haven’t read this one yet, please drop whatever you’re doing and IMMEDIATELY drive to your closest bookstore and get this book. And then read it. And then, make yourself something to eat, and read it again. This book is an essential one for your shelves. (And while you’re there, you might as well pick up his latest book, too: In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto. It’s next on my list.

I’ve been sitting here for a while trying to decide which passage to quote for you, but the problem is I keep wanting to just type out entire chapters (or the whole damn book, really). But what’s most striking for me right now is the way he so aptly describes “America’s National Eating Disorder”:

America has never had a stable national cuisine; each immigrant population has brought its own foodways to the American table, but none has ever been powerful enough to hold the national diet very steady. We seem bent on reinventing the American way of eating every generation…. That might explain why Americans have been such easy marks for food fads and diets of every description….

What is striking is just how little it takes to set off one of these applecart-toppling nutritional swings in America; a scientific study, a new government guideline, a lone crackpot with a medical degree can alter this nation’s diet overnight. (pp. 298-300)

And a few pages later:

The success of food marketers in exploiting shifting eating patterns and nutritional fashions has a steep cost. Getting us to change how we eat over and over again tends to undermine the various social structures that surround and steady our eating, institutions like the family dinner, for example…. In their relentless pursuit of new markets, food companies…have broken Mom’s hold over the American menu by marketing to every conceivable demographic–and especially to children. (pp. 301-302)

Isn’t this a little bit reminiscent of what the broken educational system is doing to our children’s minds? So, the schools will jack up the kids educationally and the Big Food Industry will screw up the kids physically. And whatever is left after that, the pharmaceutical industry will take care of. Basically, we’re screwed. Unless we do strange, radical things like homeschool, and bake our own bread, that is.

Back when I first considered homeschooling, I kept it a secret from RegularDad. For about 2 months, I wandered around the house dreaming about homeschooling, and researching it online (furtively shutting down my browser window whenever RegularDad got close enough to see the computer screen.) Because I was so afraid to tell him I wanted to homeschool. I was afraid he’d think I was crazy. (Well, crazier than I already am, I mean.)

After 2 months of this, I finally broke down and told him I wanted to homeschool. And he was all: HEY! WHAT A FANTASTIC IDEA!!!!!! And then he furnished me a schoolroom and gave me carte blanche for ordering curriculum, and I was all: Gee, I wonder what he’d say if next I told him I wanted to move to Alaska and start my very own penguin farm? (Well, no. I don’t want to do that. Not really. But I do think penguins are very cute.)

Anyway. After all that happened, we both ended up giving up the nicotine. And then we ended up moving across the country. And then we ended up sort of… gaining weight. Because moving is stressful, and Skittles taste really, really good.

But while I was busy eating all those Skittles, I was also doing a lot of reading about what’s happening to our food nationally. And how our bodies use food, and what kinds of food are actually good for you. And why. And I watched a documentary or two about how the Food Industry is sacrificing our health for the almighty dollar, the most memorable being, of course, Super Size Me. And in between reading and watching all those things, I was also teaching myself how to cook properly. And (oh so quietly) reading up on gardening. Organically. These are all things I was raised without. No one ever showed me how to deal with food. How to cook it. How to buy it. How to grow it. And why.

For the past year and a half, I have been very slowly, very quietly, changing our diet. We now eat mostly fruits and vegetables, nuts and cheese, and homemade breads. And the meats I buy are usually as organic as I can afford. I’m not really into vegetarianism, for many reasons: 1) I’ve got this medical condition called pernicious anemia. My doctors told me years ago to avoid vegetarianism. And booze. Ah well. The booze didn’t sit well with me anyway. Made me fall down a lot. Who needs it? And, 2) meat tastes really, really good. Almost as good as Skittles.

Anyway. The only reason I’m telling you all this is that now that I’ve read Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, I’m really ready to take the next step in this long slow process of changing the way we eat. I’m ready, in fact, to start gardening organically. And to send RegularDad out to buy me a big ‘ole freezer so I can drive to a place that sells meat from cows that aren’t fed food that is poisonous to them, and aren’t forced to live in an environment that does not allow them to be what they are: COWS. I don’t care about the extra expense. I’ve saved about three grand already just by not smoking. I can afford the good stuff.

I’m also really glad that we homeschool. Because my kids will grow up eating Real Food. And they’ll learn how to cook Real Food. And how to enjoy Real Food. And the chances of them developing eating disorders are significantly lesser than if they were to attend regular school.

So, I’ll be busy as ever around here, making plans for the yard. I’ve already been sort of planning this whole thing out anyway. I just didn’t want to tell anyone about it. Because people, this is So NOT What I Thought I’d Ever Be Doing With My Life.

I hardly recognize myself.


12 Responses to “America’s National Eating Disorder.”

  1. 1 Katherine July 9, 2008 at 4:44 am


    A mom in our homeschool group said she spent a whole night dreaming (and freaking out about) corn after reading that book.

    All the changes moving here in the US, and all the hardship to our economy and all the growing pains, have this beautiful upside. Our nation is about to go solar, return to organic practices, and fresh local real whole solid food, much cleaner air. Including humane treatment of our farm animals. All the while grounding our children in a more tangible and accessible are realistic life. A life where maybe they don’t have to be told how to dry their own mint tea leaves, or not to garden when the soil is wet. A life full of practical self sufficient kind of knowledge. Yes, this is the whole under pinning of what I hope my kids get from our homeschool. I am so excited to hear you thinking in a similar way. Its all a breath of fresh air, isn’t it? Especially for us sugar fed tv raised children of the last century…

    Have you considered keeping a couple of chickens in your yard? If you ever want to talk about it, call me. I am INTO keeping yard birds for fresh eggs. So easy, so satisfying, so NOT paying four dollars a dozen for organic eggs.

    Good for you Regularmom! Like, totally.

  2. 2 RegularMom July 9, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Yes, I harbor a secret desire for chickens in the yard. And rabbits. (But not to eat…. Just because they’re so cute, and could offset the chickens nicely.)

    My yard is big enough for chickens. But it may be a while before I’m ready for them. This year, my focus has been on cleaning up the neglected mess that’s here, making LOTS of leaf mold for next year, and planting hedges and trees.

    But we eat eggs every day here. And it’s just hard to eat them knowing how the chickens that provide them are treated.

    I will definitely be in touch with you when I’m ready, though. 🙂

  3. 3 robinellablog July 9, 2008 at 9:21 am

    EXCELLENT! I’ll pick up that book today when we go out. I’ve read books with similar passages.

  4. 4 kitten (Katie) July 9, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Now!, there’s some food for thought I can use! Thank you bunches for this post! I really need to get these books!

  5. 5 Mommylion July 9, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks for that review. I’ve seen the book, but didn’t know the purpose. I now wish I read it yesterday.

  6. 6 RegularMom July 9, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Mommylion and Robinella, you won’t be disappointed. This book will keep you up late at night. Even after you’re done reading it. 🙂

    And kitten — HI GIRL!!!!! Where’ve you been lately? 🙂

  7. 7 Mom #1 July 10, 2008 at 3:20 am

    Ok, I just finished a book that Katharine recommended and now I have to go and get another one. I’m keeping B&N in business lately.

    It’s so funny you should post about this. Mom #2 and I have been having this VERY SAME conversation the past few weeks. I’m so glad we homeschool too. It makes me feel like I can do it. Ordinarily I would just give it a thought and then go back to the norm, but having already shaken myself away from the system one time, I’m convinced that I can really do this.

    Keep us posted on your journey, and I’ll keep you posted on mine. We’ll be RegularAdoptedSisterGirls ;-).

  8. 8 Dot July 10, 2008 at 8:20 am

    I’ve heard about a book called The Fruit Hunters, it’s supposed to be great. There was an interview with the author on yesterday. The author describes amazing, unheard of fruit from all over the world, with various implications to US businesses, etc.

  9. 9 ~L~ July 11, 2008 at 12:31 am

    I am a huge Michael Pollan fan. Checkout the “grid matters” tag on my site to read my boring ramblings on it.

    I admit my heart just cheered reading this. I am so freaked out by all the plastic in the grocery stores. I shit you not, I don’t even GO anymore. On the rare occasions we do, we avoid the middle sections so I really have been out of touch with the CRAP they’re selling our children. THE exception for me is Trader Joe’s.

    Links I think you will love me for:

  10. 10 RegularMom July 11, 2008 at 2:09 pm


    I can’t tell you enough…. You ROCK!

    And Dot, thanks for the heads up. That books sounds excellent. It’s going on my list.

  11. 11 Maria July 12, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    I’ve been dipping my toe back into the blogging world ever so slowly…just LOVED your post (I missed you, by the way…) and I am looking forward to reading the book. I just finished a book on Living Foods…in the last two years my diet has been going WAY down hill…and my husband and I have just taken a good look at our eating habits and are saying “Oy. SO not good.” and are trying to make some changes. What you said about making slow changes is good. I think that’s how habits are made. Transition one thing at a time maybe?
    Anyway…enjoyed the post very much!

  12. 12 RegularMom July 12, 2008 at 8:36 pm


    Glad to see you back. And yes, slow and steady makes for lasting change. 🙂

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