A few weeks ago when the Apple iPad was announced, a friend of mine showed some interest in it as a way of buying and reading books. She’s an avid reader of books, and I got the impression that her main interest was that electronic books don’t take up any space in your home or add to the clutter. They’re also cheaper and more eco-green-friendly.
I’ve been reading books on my iPhone since I bought it in November 2008. In fact, in the past year, it’s the first time I’ve read any novels since my teens, at home in Mt Gambier, before television. There is one exception, The Da Vinci Code, which I read when it was the book of the day. I also read two small novels (for ladies) written by a lady friend of a friend of mine.
The iPhone has opened up my reading because I’m retired and like to have a variety of ways to fill in my day, apart from things I have to do because I don’t have a wife. The iPhone app written up on my website provides a selection of 200 classic books that now sell for A$2.49 for the entire collection. When I bought it, I paid A$12.99 for only 50 books. But at least I haven’t been charged for the updates that have brought it to 200 books.
I also think that my new interest in reading novels is also partly due to the fact that my home in Melbourne does not have lighting that suits reading for pleasure – but reading on the iPhone has it’s own lighting, and you can set everything to make it easy to read.
Anyway my friend’s interest in the iPad for reading books lead me to discover Kindle for the iPhone, and I couldn’t resist giving it a try. The Kindle app is free, and it makes it easy to buy modern books that are not in the public domain, which you can buy and download from Amazon. I bought two books, and the one I’m going to write about is “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan (a journalist).
I’m not going to review the book, or even tell you what it’s about. You can find all this out for yourself by looking up the book on Amazon.com and read some of the pages, and readers’ reviews.
What I am going to tell you is that reading the book has had an impact on me. The Publishers Weekly describes the book as a “treatise” on the industrialised Western diet and its detrimental effects on our health and eating culture. It is particularly aimed at the American food industry, nutritionists and the processed foods that many American apparently eat; but much of it applies to Australia and the food we eat.
You only have to look around our supermarkets and perhaps in your own pantry and fridge to see many examples of processed food. Did your bread come already sliced and packed? It only takes flour, water, yeast and salt to make a dough from which a loaf of bread is baked. If your bread came already packed, try counting the number of ingredients in your bread. How many of them do you would your grandmother’s generation recognise as food?
When reading the book, I wondered if it is a work to be taken seriously, or if it was a journalist’s rant about a subject in which he has no credentials or formal training. Should I ignore the advice of my doctor to avoid butter and only have skim milk; or go back to eating butter and full cream milk because they contain more nutrition, and butterfat which Pollan says helps the body absorb the nutrients.
Pollan goes into detail about the milling of flour and the industrialisation of bread making in the 1800’s, with the removal of many of the nutrients and vitamins from the flour. But I did some research and I think he writes about this piece of history with a slant towards the general thrust of the book, rather than as an objective observation. I understand that the industrial revolution saw a move in the population from rural areas to the cities and jobs in the factories. This created problems in feeding the city populations, and this lead to innovation, in a time before anyone know of the existence of vitamins and nutrients. White flour. I suppose, was seen as good flour that didn’t turn rancid. In his more recent book “Food Rules” Pollan warns against white bread and states “the whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead.”