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"Don't Yuck Someone's Yum": Readers Send Their Own Eating Rules to Pollan

After Pollan published his Rules for Eating in his book "In Defense of Food," he asked readers to post their own eating rules. Yesterday, the New York Times listed 20 of those "Reader Rules" in a snappy little slide show.


Among the rules from readers:
Don’t eat egg salad from a vending machine.
Don’t yuck someone’s yum.
Never eat anything that took more energy to ship than to grow.
It’s better to pay the grocer than the doctor.

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  1. I loved this and am sending it on. Thanks.

    1. I can't agree with all of them (No second helpings...), but I really like the "my father..." and "my grandma" ones.

      1. Excellent. My favorite is "If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you are not hungry."

        9 Replies
        1. re: small h

          But...I don't like apples in general...and would not think of an apple even if I were hungry. I can buy 'interesting' apples from the farmers' market from apple growers then throw them out (not a single one eaten) after two weeks sitting around on the counter.

          1. re: huiray

            The point of that "rule" is to remind you that people eat because they feel like eating, and not because they are actually hungry. If you were actually hungry, you'd eat an apple and you'd damn well like it. The fact that you're buying food and then throwing it out says to me you do not spend a lot of time being actually hungry. (Neither do I, by the way, and I don't like apples very much either.)

            1. re: small h

              "If you were actually hungry, you'd eat an apple and you'd damn well like it."
              But my point was that I normally wouldn't eat that apple if I was hungry. If it was the only food available then of course I would. However, I guess you are extrapolating from that rule you like and are interpreting it to include the extended meaning that the person who posted it was actually saying that he/she did not like apples but would eat it if he/she was truly hungry and had no choice?

              ETA: It's a small point, I do get the sense of what I think the commentator was aiming for.

              1. re: small h

                I wish i were better at abiding by this rule.

              2. re: huiray

                If you were starving(really starving) and only apples were available, you would probably eat them. That's what small h is talking about.

                1. re: Fromageball

                  Eight months and 2 days of c-rations in Nam, taught me what it was like to "eat to live". I swore that if I ever got out alive I would spend the the rest of my life "living to eat", both for some buddies that never got the opportunity and myself. It may be hard to understand, but this is part of the reason, I never eat at chains.
                  Eight months and 2 days, so I can now buy a Baskin & Robbins in Hanoi? WTF? (The first time I have ever typed that acronym.)

                2. re: huiray

                  So substitute a pear, banana, orange, handful of grapes, carrot, handful of broccoli and you should get the general idea.

                  1. re: rweater

                    I don't think it's a matter of substituting. I think it means if you're truly hungry, you'll eat anything. People eat grass if they're hungry enough. If you pick something you enjoy eating, then it doesn't say anything about your hunger level.

              3. I have two:

                Never eat fluorescent food.

                If the bugs won't eat it, neither should you.

                1. Thanks for posting this. My favorite, and a part of my Italian heritage I'd like to embrace, "You can't leave the table till you finish your fruit!" On that note, I'm going to get a handful of raspberries RIGHT NOW.

                  1. Don't yuck someone's yum--that's effin' brilliant! That, and the one about arbitrary rules, are my favorites (especially since I've been known to follow arbitrary rules--ask me about my 5 months celebrating "heathen Lent")!

                    1. Love the "don't eat egg salad from a vending machine" rule. Similar to Pollan's own "don't eat food from a gas station"!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: coney with everything

                        Nonsense. In Louisiana you find all the good boudin at gas stations.

                        1. re: Frolic

                          There's a gas station 2 blocks from my house that sells the most excellent Middle Eastern food--fresh, prepared in-house, with a raw juice bar to boot.

                          But I don't think we need to take it so literally--you pretty much know what he means by "no gas station food"--nuked burritos, big gulps, donuts...

                        2. I love these. My husband and I have been discussing putting together our own cook book of favorite recipes from family, and friends, they are all stuffed in a cabinet on loose written or printed on paper.

                          I think it would be cute to incorporate some of these eating rules into the recipe book when we make it.

                          1. #6. Never eat something that's pretending to be something else.

                            Pretty close to one of my golden rules. I try to eat "Real" food as much as possible. Staying away from artificial stuff. I buy ingredients and make something with them.
                            I honestly feel like these types of things aren't at all bad for you. What is bad for you is the amount you take. Sugar, not bad. A lb. of sugar a day. Bad. If you see what I'm saying.
                            This cuts out a lot of fillers, stabilizers, preservatives and other garbage that is in most remade food.

                            These both sorta fall into the "Don't eat Frankenfood" category.


                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Davwud

                              So I guess you also would not eat freshly prepared high end food in a restaurant that uses molecular gastronomic technicques? (no WD~50 for you...) Or a gourmet dish where ingredients have been used in a clever way so that the end result looks like something else and not what the original ingredient was? ("Camoflage dishes")

                              1. re: huiray

                                But isn't it still "real" even if it doesn't look the same? Mashed potatoes don't look anything like they do in their natural state.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  Ah - but the rule in question is "#6. Never eat something that's pretending to be something else." :-) :-)

                            2. How about a rule that says: Don't generalise - think and eat critically.

                              1. Here's mine: Don't stick your fork into the food on someone else's plate. If you "just want a taste," order your own.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: CookieWeasel

                                  That is the opposite of what my rule would be!

                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                    Jasmine, ditto. Food is communal, just ask Jesus, Moses or Buddah. Even Joseph Smith wants us to store food for the brethren.

                                    1. re: JasmineG

                                      Jasmine and Passadumkeg, I am referring to the people (always female, all who live in the same city!) who do this in a very aggressive way without asking first. This has happened to me time and time again. I never say anything for fear of sounding mean-spirited or selfish, which I am not-- really! It's different when it's a reciprocal sharing of food, agreed upon at the beginning of the meal when food is untouched and forks are clean. (which my friends and I always do when at Chinese restaurants, for example) I agree that food is a communal experience, but this sharing needs to be done in a thoughtful way, not like Hitler invading Poland.

                                      1. re: CookieWeasel

                                        I recently read and LOVED this quote from Fran Libowitz:

                                        "I like Indochine," she, um, typed, "despite the fact that the kind of food they serve is the kind that people share, which is something I always avoid. I do not like to share my food. I would rather give someone a million dollars than a bite of my spring roll. I do not want to see someone else's chopsticks hovering over my plate. And it is my plate. So, I must really enjoy the atmosphere at Indochine, because I agree to eat in a place where people share food. The thing that I most like there are the dumplings. You're supposed to share them, but I do not. And when people say, 'Let's get some dunplings,' I say: 'Fine, let's get some, and I will also get some.'"

                                        I like to share food but for heavens sake,respect other people. I'm with you CW!

                                    2. re: CookieWeasel

                                      ...but that's the whole point... "just a taste" is just a taste. ;-) I don't want the whole thing or even half of it. I'm so glad my husband, and actually my entire extended family, and most of our friends (at least the ones that we go out to great restaurants with) are always willing to share "just a taste." But CookieWeasel, I do understand where you're coming from. By the way, my husband often calls me Weasel, which rhymes with Liesl (which is an affectionate German shortening of my real name.).

                                      1. re: CookieWeasel

                                        This makes me sad. I am always offering and asking to taste. Depending on who it is, I usually let them offer first. I never just help myself. I honestly want just a taste. Usually it is something I ahve never had and I want to see if I like it. I don't have unlimited income to buy 2 entrees for myself just to take one bite of one and throw it away. I LITERALLY want just a taste :(

                                        1. re: melpy

                                          I use the , "Hey look at the spider on the ceiling!" trick.

                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                            Did you know my father at some point in the past? That was one of his.

                                          2. re: melpy

                                            I like "tastes" also but I don't ask. If it's not offered, then I don't ask. I remember a dinner with two friends (a married couple) a few years ago. Three of us ordered a bunch of things and shared. One ordered HIS meal, ate HIS meal only. Kind of a lesson to me.

                                        2. "Don’t yuck someone’s yum" So pithy, and it's been a long standing rule for me. My rule was much more verbose, about no noises of revulsion but boils down to the same thing. I used to have a friend who made disgusting noises when anyone's food choice differed from her own (which I gotta say was almost always). She'd make this blechy noise that put me right off whatever I was eating.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: MplsM ary

                                            I was the person who said "Don't Yuck Somone's Yum" and I think it applies to all aspects of life, not just food. (I do wish I hadnt included the eyeballs part though...eek. I just meant people should be allowed to enjoy their food in peace...)

                                            Sorry for the years late comment, but I just saw this. :-)

                                          2. "Don't yuck someone's yum"--I think this is a rule I will live by for all the rest of my days. Brilliant!


                                            1. Conversely, I still chuckle at a comedy bit done by Steve Allen, many years ago. It amounted to Yumming someone's yuck. His contention was that whatever food you stated that you disliked, there was always someone who would say " Oh, you don't eat that? That's the best part."

                                              Lobster Tomalley? Chicken feet? brown spots on a banana?
                                              Oh, you don't eat that? That's the best part.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Rmis32

                                                That is so true! I love Steve Allen.

                                                  1. re: Rmis32

                                                    Schmock! Schmock! So said Steve Allen.