Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Feb 1, 2008 04:38 PM

Michael Pollan's Twelve Commandments for Serious Eaters

From his new book:In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto:

1. "Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

2. "Avoid foods containing ingredients you can't pronounce."

3. "Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot."

4. "Avoid food products that carry health claims."

5. "Shop the peripheries of the supermarket; stay out of the middle."

6. "Better yet, buy food somewhere else: the farmers' market or CSA."

7. "Pay more, eat less."

8. "Eat a wide variety of species."

9. "Eat food from animals that eat grass."

10. "Cook, and if you can, grow some of your own food."

11. "Eat meals and eat them only at tables."

12. "Eat deliberately, with other people whenever possible, and always with pleasure."

I think it's the Chowhound credo too. Sounds good to me!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. i've been preaching this stuff to my clients, friends & family for years - i'm tempted to forward this to everyone just to witness the collective groans & eye rolling :)

    the biggest problem is that the people who really need to hear - and would benefit most from - this advice are NOT the ones who read michael pollan!

    1 Reply
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      GHG, I am sorry if you have already said this, but what line of work are you in? I am imagining you are in healthcare as you mentioned clients... I love your tips and recipes!

    2. Most of these are common sense and do make sense (though I am not sure it is fair in these economic times to tell one to pay more, and I don't think it is necessarily true that one must pay more to follow the other guidelines...)

      From a health standpoint, number 11 is a mixed bag, IMO. On the one hand, eating only at tables helps one focus on the food and avoid mindless eating (and I am a terrible offender, as I do like to have dinner in front of the TV sometimes...)

      but what is the deal with eating meals? No snacks? No reaching for an orange to eat during a hike? No gelato? No egg tartlets in Chinatown? No oysters at the bar (or at the Hog Island stand at the Farmer's Market?) ....well, I could go on and on and on, but one gets the idea: that part doesn't sound like the Chowhound credo to me...

      9 Replies
      1. re: susancinsf

        It is a nice, well-intentioned list, but hardly a manifesto for all Chowhounds. I think a number of people will take exception to the notion "pay more and eat less" just as they are quibbling over "meal vs snack" eaten "sitting, not standing" ....

        1. re: Cheflambo

          Regarding #7, I think that Michael Pollan would argue we'd all pay less, in the long run, by focusing on why it costs more to shop at the farmers' markets than at the supermarket. Sure, there are economies of scale for the big producers, but the larger story is all of the hidden costs we pay for the supposedly cheaper food. We pay for the farm subsidies for the cheap corn, we pay for the costs of the environmental degradation from the fertilizer run-off, and we really pay through the hose for the diabetes from the massive overload of high fructose corn syrup in almost every product. By paying attention to the real costs of the food we eat, perhaps people will demand that the actual costs are really reflected in the sticker price, so that people can make more rational (and economical) decisions about their food.

          1. re: Cheflambo

            I don't know why, and I'm probably wrong, but my original interpretation of #7 was "support local"
            .......local produce, non chain restaurants, local grocers....all which tend to cost more.

            Choose that instead of masses amounts of low quality box store offerings.

            I'm not sure that is what he meant but that's how I prefer to look at it.

            1. re: MSK

              I took him to mean "pay more, eat less" to refer to meats - that we should not eat such meat-centric dishes, and that we should pay attention to buying meats from humane, local sources.

              1. re: MSK

                I took it to mean "don't supersize" - skip the huge portions of poor-quality food and have smaller portions of the good stuff.

                1. re: MSK

                  Funny how so many got a different meaning. I took it to mean pay for quality, not quantity. In fact, the first thing that came to mind was, "Better a very small USDA prime steak than a porterhouse from WalMart!" That I agree with! Just can't afford kobe beef. Well, I could if they'd sell it in smaller amounts than a pound. "I'd like a half ounce steak, please." '-)

                  1. re: MSK

                    You are completely right. In my humble opinion that is :).

                    It saddens me to know that we feel perfectly okay spending so much money on video games, gadgets, brands, electronics and many other items but when it comes to Food, (the thing that enables us to LIVE) we are not interested where it comes from AND we want to spend as little as possible and eat like pigs.

                    Food is the most important thing, the thing that keeps us alive and beautiful, the thing that brings families and friends and even countries together, the thing that binds us as a species and we should give it the love and respect it deserves.

                    Pay more and eat less is not a "money issue" as if you are in fact eating less it will even itself out monetarily. As MSK says, it is about making responsible decisions, choosing quality over quantity and choosing it close to home.

                    1. re: oana

                      I know too many people who are care more about the quality of gas for their car (shun the cheap stuff on the belief it's bad) than the food they eat and what they are willing to pay for it.

                      1. re: Leonardo

                        Perfect example! It is just mind boggling is it not?
                        I am not sure whether it starts from kids not being taught to respect life in general (which would include themselves and the world they live in and are responsible for) or if it is just that as adults they just no longer care for some reason ... sad stuff ...

              2. I think everyone would have their own opinions and ideas about what a serious eater is, which may also be different in different parts of the world.

                Not meant to be comprehesive or critical:

                re: 2 -- I 'm bad at language, and there are often everyday ingredients from foreign cultures that I can't pronounce (or pronounce properly). Certain types of fruits from Latin/South America for example.

                re: 9 -- that would biased against essentially all seafood, and it means no jamon iberico from acorn fed pigs.

                re: 11 -- that means no street food from carts, which are a big tradition in many cultures.

                1. 3. "Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot."

                  So, what exactly does Pollan have against Space Food Sticks? I had a special hole drilled in my astronaut's helmet just to accommodate them, and now he's telling me they're bad for me?!


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    My first thought about #3 was that honey is an obvious exception, which doesn't invalidate the rule.

                  2. I'll buy into 9 out of 12 of Pollan's food Commandments, which, at 75%, eclipses my earlier endorsement of 7 of those older Commandments.