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Michael Pollan
>Ilustrations by Maira Kalman
Food Rules: An Eater's Manual
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2011

Penguin Press / Penguin Putnam
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-1-594-20308-4
Publication Date: 11-01-2011
240 Pages; $23.95
Date Reviewed: 11-20-2011

Index: Non-Fiction

In its first incarnation, 'Food Rules: An Eater's Manual' was the proverbial pocket (or purse) book. You need not treat it gently. Take it with you to the grocery store, bend it to hell and back, but Pay Attention — or just pay. The 'Food Rules' paperback is the literary handgun in this epic fight. The 'Food Rules' hardcover, gorgeously published, with illustrations by Maira Kalman is the heirloom version. It's also nice enough to get your kids to look at and think about food in an actually healthy manner.

} Last week, I made six different artisan pizzas from 'Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads in Five Minutes a Day.' I knew exactly what is in each pizza. Knowing what you're eating is half the battle, though I must hasten to add that having hot, fresh bread or pizza daily is a temptation that has some dietary downsides. That said, the press for fresh, home-made food is as economical as it is enjoyable. 'Food Rules' is a book that you can bring with you to the store, or just sit down and read bits of daily. The reminders will help keep you focused in much the same manner as Pollan has sharpened his focus.

'Food Rules' is pretty simple. It is a series of 64 rules, divided into three parts; "What should I eat? (Eat food.)," "What kind of food should I eat? (Mostly plants.)," and "How should I eat? (Not too much.)." [When you have that fresh honey wheat bread around, the last one is a toughie.] Each rule is a single, smart sentence, printed in really big type; sometimes it's quite self explanatory, for example, "Don't ingest food made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap." Pollan's mordant sense of humor helps this batch of medicine go down; 'Food Rules' is a pretty damn funny, in the vein of, "That's not funny, it's true!" Yes, it is funny; yes, it is true.

Some of these rules get a page or more of explication; "Eat your colors," for example, follows grandma's proverb up with current medical science. And some are being borne out by discoveries in other arenas. "Eat less," for example, we see reflected in our inclination to eat more. A recent study by Cornell University examined depictions of The Last Supper and found that the amount of food on those plates has increased over the years — and that's just looking at paintings between 1000 AD and 1700 AD. One can imagine the fast food version of The Last Supper, and it's not a pretty picture.

Yes, the paperback version of the book is pricey. Eleven bucks for a mass-market paperback is a new record, and this isn't even one of those weird long paperbacks that they're trying to foist off on us. On the other hand, take this book to the store with you just three times then consult it while you're shopping and you'll not only save at least eleven greenbacks, you're very likely to extend your life, at least by the amount of time you spend shopping.

The hardcover is, in comparison, something of a steal. It works as a guide, but it is also just a beautiful book to have around the house, filed with the cookbooks — where it will get lots of notice.

As far as the cost of 'Food Rules' goes, I will say that it is very nicely laid out and designed by Sabrina Bowers. The nicely-done clip art makes the whole thing seem like a quality production. There are not so many ingredients in 'Food Rules.' Smart writing. Great focus. The sort of advice you can actually take to the store, and then home, with luck to the smell of fresh-baked honey wheat bread.

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