Food Adages through the Ages

Michael Pollan, author of the best seller In Defense of Food, is asking the public to help him gather rules for eating well. ‘Culture has a lot to teach us about how to choose, prepare and eat food, and this wisdom is worth collecting and preserving before it disappears,’ he said.

Pollan points out how we have turned to science and industry to guide us in our eating habits over recent years – advice which he believes has often served us poorly or simply confirmed traditional wisdoms.

‘I’ve also found that many ethnic traditions have their own memorable expressions for what amounts to the same recommendation,’ wrote Pollan in The New York Times yesterday.

‘Many cultures for example, have grappled with the problem of food abundance and come up with different ways of suggesting you should stop eating before you’re completely full’.

‘The Japanese say “hara hachi bu” (eat until you are four-fifths full) while Germans advise eaters to “tie off the sack before it’s full.” And the Prophet Muhammad recommended that a full belly should contain one-third food, one-third drink and one-third air.’

Pollan is aiming to create a compendium of such rules, across cultures and also time. Some of the responses offered by individuals so far have been specifically about navigating the modern food landscape: “It’s not food if it comes to you through the window of a car.” “Don’t eat at any restaurant of which there is more than just one,” and so on.

Everyone is invited to send Michael Pollan a food rule that they try to live by – something perhaps passed down by parents or grandparents, or which you have created to encourage good eating habits in your children or yourself?

Suggestions will be posted on Michael Pollan’s website on and he plans to include the best in the final collection of food rules.

Share your food wisdom by posting a comment at:

Bess Mucke
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