Recently, both a friend and a family member recommended I watch Forks Over Knives. The documentary is all the rage, I gather, but the premise—that a plant-based (i.e. vegan) diet is The Way—seemed a little off-kilter. So I read the reviews, talked about it to a few people, and added the movie to my queue. But before watching the movie (perhaps we’ll watch it tonight?), I Googled “criticism for Forks Over Knives.” Oh boy. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with questions. And then there was criticism for the criticism, but of course. It was a good old-fashioned food fight, but with data and pixels instead of spoons and mashed potatoes.

So I exchanged emails with family and friends, made more phone calls, and read more reviews. But when I sat down to write out my thoughts on the matter and how it is that I don’t jump on board all these health-food bandwagons—because how could I since there are about a million of them, and besides, I’d probably get a heart attack from all that jumping around—I realized that saying that made me sound like an ignorant fool because how dare I turn up my nose at healthy eating!

So I stopped writing and read more reviews and called my mom and called my husband and called my friend. When I get writer’s constipation, the solution is to talk it out, thanks heavens for phones and the people at the other end of them (though a stuffed animal propped up at the other end of the couch works okay in a pinch).

And then I tried to write again.

I’ve decided that what I have to say is stupid and pointless because Barbara Kingsolver has said it all already and I’m not nearly as eloquent as she is, but I’m getting a little bored with writing about bickering kids and yarn, so here goes.

Our society is up to its eyeballs in Dietary Rules of Law—Atkins! Raw! Local! South Beach! Zone! Low-calorie! Blood type! Macrobiotic! Organic! Fat-free! Whole Grain!—so that half the time we have no clue which way is up. I have a hunch that ours is a first-world problem, this figuring out what to eat. It’s a problem born of our over-abundance, endless opportunities, and an over-inflated sense of self-importance and control. And since we lack a connection to our food sources and can get away with ignoring the ebb and flow of the seasons, we resort to self-imposed food laws for parameters.

These laws come at us via books, movies, magazines, blogs, etc, all of which are full of pulpit-pounding experts eagerly trying to enlighten us as to how we’re slowing killing ourselves by eating—pick one—baked potatoes, butter, scrambled eggs, chocolate chip cookies, cooked spinach, raw milk, and without chopsticks.

I admit it stresses me out a little, because being told that I’M KILLING MYSELF WITH MY LUNCH is slightly stressful.

But back to this movie (which I haven’t seen yet so this is kind of ridiculous). I hear that these experts recommend a diet packed full with fresh vegetables. This sounds incredibly noble and good and right, but aren’t there other problems (i.e. fossil fuels) associated with shipping in out-of-season veggies and fruits? (But hey, with 70 degree temps in February, we may soon be able to grow kale year round!) Nothing stands in isolation—there are so many factors to take into consideration when discussing health and well-being. And eating a certain way to solve all our problems has problems of its own.

I know for a fact that I don’t have all the answers, and I have a hunch that no one else does either. (On both accounts, I’m sorry.) There are as many ways to eat as there are to raise kids as there are to grow food as there are to become educated as there are to make art, etc. and thank goodness. This fabulous variety is what makes the world beautiful and scary and exhilarating.

And this is the reason I’m hesitant to jump on bandwagons (except for ones I build myself).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a movie I need to watch.

This same time, years previous: cream scones, Molly’s Marmalade Cake, foods I’ve never told you about, part three


  • teekaroo

    Honestly, with all the health fads going around, I don't know what to eat! I have one person telling me to not eat grains, another telling me not to eat meat, someone else telling me to go dairy free… I feel like I'm stuck with just a celery stick for dinner.

  • Anonymous

    Three cheers for moderation. Bugsboysandbooboos, I hope this doesn't sound weird, but fasting is an age-old healing method that auto-immune diseases respond to particularly well. Even things like Crohns, lupus, etc. Sort of extreme, but it could be worth a looksee.

    What I don't like is all that name-calling in the food wars. One book calls vegetarians and vegans "wackos," another calls omnivores "murderers." It's unhelpful.

  • Melissa @ thelittlegrayhouse

    Well said. I tend to lean towards moderation. We don't eat a lot of processed food because I can cook real foods from scratch for much cheaper. That's not to say we don't enjoy the occasional meal out, where let's be honest, it's a crap shoot.

    When it comes to all the "diets" out there I feel like it has almost evolved into another way for us to judge each other. Who eats what way, and how we "should" be eating. Blah, blah, blah. At some point I have to remember that my days are numbered anyway and I will just do the best for myself in the time that I have here.

  • KTdid

    I don't care much for bandwagons. I just like to eat what I figure (from all the conflicting reports) is most beneficial to the human body. But I don't like to proselytize. Let anybody else (other than my husband) eat whatever they wish!

  • Mavis

    The Girl and I watched the movie last night. Basically all I got out of it was don't eat hot dogs ever again. Did you see that disgusting tube/package of ground/pureed meat. Blech. It made my skin crawl.

  • Beth Brubaker

    I have been slowly getting as much processed food out of my house as possible, but with no farms nearby, I can't go totally fresh without going totally broke. And on one income, that could happen quite quickly!

    So here's my solution to both the problem of local fruits and veggies, and also the 10% unemployment rate:
    Start building mom-and-pop greenhouses. You'd hire people to care for the foods, and sell them locally, at their freshest- it's not the best way to grow (unless you can find a way to cover an entire field and use the ground!), but it's better than getting it from a place you can't find on a map and discover someone coated your veggies in edible plastics!

    Yes, they have actually started coating some veggies (like lettuces) in a thin skin of plastic to make them stay fresh longer- and that plastic is poisoning us!
    Oh, and you want to get really scared? Take a look at Dr. Mercola's site ( a company called Monsanto- that will really open your eyes!

  • my3ninjas

    I'm with you. And I'm not. I think we're all just trying to figure out how to stay alive…literally. I just got diagnosed with an auto immune disease, so I've joined on the bandwagon and I'm on the GAPS diet to help heal my gut, so I can enjoy "real food" without a reaction. Hopefully. With all the issues with autism, ADHD, cancer, auto immune diseases, allergies, etc. – things that weren't either as labled or as prevalent as years and years before – people want to figure it all out and want to know why. We eat as organic and natural as possible (financially), but we've been eating strawberries all winter because the boys love them. It's definitely a tough battle and it's annoying and frustrating and confusing to see all these different diets. I think what bothers me the most is the misinformation out there. If you're looking for a nutritional plan (diet sounds so awful now a days), then you've got to find the one that resonates with you the most and has real food in it (am I on the real food bandwagon now?) I could never go vegan willingly, or even vegetarian. mmmm…bacon…

  • Anonymous

    If you lived closer I'd bake you cake and deliver it to your door. Finally someone thinks like me! I'm not ignorant about making healthy choices, eating lots of variety of veggies (Hey grow your own!), grains, beans, etc. Stay out of the fast food drive thru, grow or buy organic to limit exposure to chemicals. But I refuse to jump on whatever new fad comes along each year, month, week, or day. Thanks for sharing and not scaring. Robin

  • Margo

    my bandwagon is MODERATION. wanna get on?

    i had not heard of this film before your post. actually, i haven't watched any of these food films. i'd rather watch a sappy love story.

  • katherine

    Sounds like Michael Pollan. (And that's a good thing.) If you know about Barbara Kingsolver's book, then you've probably read The Omnivore's Dilemma. If not, however, check it out. He'll back you up with good writing & good science.

  • Zoë

    Here's my bandwagon:

    Eat anything you want as long as it's not processed (though a little won't kill you faster than nature does anyway) and raised as humanely and "naturally" (whatever that means these days!) as possible.

    Maybe this is a bandwagon I built myself…

  • You Can Call Me Jane

    Here's what I think:
    ~People are passionate about food (hence our country's weight and health problems).
    ~Most of your readers are probably passionate about food in a much more healthy way.
    ~{Any} change can be hard. It means work, effort, shaking things up, causing your kids and (sometimes) husbands to complain and who wants any of that?
    ~We're (myself very much included) afraid of change.
    ~While we shouldn't spend ridiculous amounts of time and energy getting educated about every aspect of everything, I don't think we should hide from new ideas either.
    ~Anyone who tells me to eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains deserves some of my attention.

    Well, you asked. Actually, you didn't, but I was sensing you wanted to:-).

  • Peggy

    Thank you! (of course I read this while eating a slice of pizza covered in ingredients we raised or were raised locally this past summer… yes it includes meat!! yum for day old pizza!)

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