Corn Commentary

Busting Pervasive Food Myths

As someone who sometimes enjoys cooking almost as much as eating, I was intrigued this morning by a story in the Food section of our local paper about a new book, Lobsters Scream When You Boil Them, And 100 Other Myths About Food and Cooking, by Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein. I always wondered not about lobsters, but about why one should not cut lettuce with a metal knife., but rather tear it. All pish-posh, they say, and I agree.

The article mentioned another myth I’ve seen a lot, that one should shop the perimeter of a supermarket and avoid the middle. In, fact, it’s Rule No. 12 in Michael Pollan’s book on food rules. Here’s what Scarbrough told a reporter: “I cannot abide that notion,” he says. “The perimeter of my supermarket is stocked with doughnuts and soda. Second, you miss all the brown rice and maple syrup, berries, the real food, part of a balanced diet. If there’s anything in (the book) that absolutely shows my irritation, it’s that myth about shopping the perimeter.”

Mark Bittman of The New York Times is often compared to Pollan when it comes to fastidiousness about food. But Sunday’s article by Bittman I found very interesting, and not just because it dispelled one of the main tenets of the movie Food, Inc. and its supporters, that poor people have come to rely on fast food and overly processed food because it’s all they can afford or have time for.

Bittman revisits the idea here, in a discussion about the Slow Food Movement’s $5 challenge. I like the idea, and at our house we are able to prepare cost-effective meals that have kept my wife, our kids and me pretty healthy and happy. And we sit down for meals together almost daily (or at least have a quorum every night), something everyone agrees is one of the most important things families can do.

From what I’ve seen, even as someone who has lived his whole life in the suburbs, the vast majority  of farmers and ranchers feel the same way. They not only love food, but they love to cook. There are some elements to the current food movement that farmers and ranchers can, should, and do embrace; the difficulty comes when you start pushing federal policies that seek (with the best of intentions) to force these ideas (or even some food myths) on all. Cultural change does not require laws that restrict, but rather parents and other mentors who lead by example and encouragement.