Umm ... That Edible Food-Like Substance Really Hits The Spot

Food activist Michael Pollan touched a nerve when alluding to “edible food-like substances,” referring to many of the processed foods Americans consume every day.

JEFF REINKE, Editorial Director

Yesterday we ran a video in which author and “food activist” Michael Pollan offered some thoughts behind his book Food Rules. First, I’m going to admit that I haven’t read the book, so I’m solely going off of his remarks in the interview referenced above.

Overall, I thought he made some very interesting points, and I’d agree with many of them in terms of further examining one’s diet, making a greater effort to really think about what we’re eating and even the points he touched upon relating to getting more animals back on the farms from where so much of our food supply stems. However, he also touched a nerve when alluding to “edible food-like substances,” referring to many of the processed foods Americans consume every day.

I’m not here to debate the prominence of organic food products. I think they have their place, but as Mr. Pollan stated, they are more expensive and simply demand more effort in finding and selecting than just going to the store and grabbing from shelves. I get that and respect those who prefer to go this route. There is definitely a place for all things organic.

Just as important, however, are those more heavily processed products that are less expensive, easier to procure, quicker to prepare, and in my opinion, tasted pretty good while watching the Badgers basketball game last night. And I’m not going to blame my consumption of a couple breaded chicken sandwiches, some mozzarella sticks and a can of soda as some sort of cosmic equalizer for a last-second, heartbreaking loss.

Similarly, when I chow down on some freshly made guacamole made from avocados and tomatoes purchased from the farmer’s market down the street during the Super Bowl, I’m not going to feel more at peace with the world as I cheer on the Saints.

Sports references aside, my point is that while I can appreciate the competitive sparring between the organic vs. mass-produced food communities, the bottom line is that our society wants and demands both. My deep-fried, calorie-oozing options last night are not a normal occurrence but once in a while, it feels good to have a dinner I enjoy and is ready with no effort in less than 15 minutes.

Also, in addition to the higher prices I pay for fresh vegetables in Wisconsin markets right now, it’s nice to reap the benefits of the discounted $10 for 10 processed items I devoured last night.

The key is balance and personal responsibility, not attempting to propagate an elitist attitude towards food consumption that many — not all — but many organic champions do. Most nights I would prefer some baked chicken and veggies, but some times that’s just not going to happen. I also know there’s no part of the chicken called the nugget, but as long as my daughters finish their potatoes or rice and fresh vegetables, I can live with their appreciation of the meal choice.

Just like so many things that make our country better than most, food choices need to be a prevalent part of our market. That’s where our focus in food production needs to lie — creating an environment in which both are given a viable chance to survive and thrive. So, in addition to supporting my local farmer, I’m also going to support my local canner, frozen food distributor and processor.

What are your thoughts? Let me know by e-mailing me at