Book Review: Food Rules

A break from the books suggested for me to read one that I bought myself: Food Rules by food journalist Michael Pollan.

But this isn’t just any Food Rules: this is the special one, illustrated by Maira Kalman, who is the acclaimed designer/artist/writer. This meant that if I was to claim I loved design, claim I loved food that I simply had to buy this book. Otherwise, I’d have to turn in my design license. Or my spatula.

I bought this because it is, of course, beautifully designed. It too looks to be set in Bodoni, along with a really pretty, throwback sans serif font and Maira Kalman’s own hand-written font. I will confess, I’m not crazy about the bold italic used in some of heads, but I can live with it as it’s sparingly used. I do wish they’d used the beautiful sans serif font for the numbers. Plus, I swear there were some extra spaces here and there in the text, so either they left some odd ones here and there or their kerning is just off. The pictures are big and pretty and colorful and make you wish to get to cooking or shopping in a farmer’s market. The painting of the Cheeto is so odd, I wasn’t sure what it was until I read the description in the text.

This nice thing, with the large stack of books on my nightstand (and on my shelf, well shelves), this is a super-short book. If you’ve done possibly too much reading about food, such as I, you can feel somewhat smug about many of the rules that you do know as well as the ones you might be following. It’s a nice compilation of basic sound advice about eating well, without denying yourself (unless you consider eating processed food to be the height of food.) If your New Year’s resolution was to “get healthy”, then I highly recommend that you buy this and follow it. Use this as the basis by which you make decisions on changing your lifestyle, at least when it comes to the “eat right” part of the equation. If you follow these recommendations, you won’t eat at fast food restaurants (rules #22 and 23), you won’t drink sodas (rules #4 and 38 and 40 and 50 and 51) and you will cook more (rule #82). You’ll learn to love food.

With 84 rules, you might think it will take a while to plow through this or adapt this into your lifestyle, but they are very simple concepts and more like guidelines than hard and fast rules. In fact, rule #84 was “break the rules once in a while.”

I’ll add that I agree with my friend Leah McGrath about shopping the perimeter. I shop at Ingles, which is a great little store. The perimeter of my store would fill my cart with: fruits and veggies (good), donuts and cookies from the deli, meats, both raw and processed (and I no longer eat meat, but maybe the fish), and dairy (which I eat sparingly). Left out are the canned veggies and beans, the nuts, the grains, the rices and the spices. So … let’s instead say “avoid buying your food in a box.”

So, if you’re looking to make that big change in your life, I’d say start here. There are so many diets and books and blogs and products out there that just confuse us. And there’s boxes and boxes of food out there trying to convince you that it will give you that health that you’re trying to find. Like the rules say, some of the healthiest foods are hiding behind those products with larger ad budgets: don’t let the beans or grains or parsnips and turnips get lost behind the already prepared “healthy” foods. As the book says (and I promise, this is as cute as the writing gets): “don’t take the silence of the yams ¬†as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about your health.”

If you’re already there, it’s still a fun book to have on your shelf. And we can all make improvements, right?

SO! Grade: A. Design: A- (Sorry, just not crazy about that bold italic font…)


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