Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Forks over Knives and other food movies

I'd wanted to see Forks over Knives ever since the Veggie Queen posted something about it on Facebook some time ago. I don't know how long the movie has been out, but a few weeks ago, Mister Smiley Dog, the guy who delivers our dog food, showed up late and when I commented about the time, he said he'd just seen Forks over Knives. "You've got to see it," he said. "Very thought provoking." I was intrigued.

I'm a foodie movie geek, and I've seen about every foodie movie that's been released. Okay maybe not all the foreign movies, but I've seen a lot and some I've seen more than once. I am done with the graphic animal slaughterhouse movies. The message has been hammered in--put down the pork chops! (At least the industrially raised ones.)

Anyway, Mister Smiley Dog liked Forks over Knives, so I was there the next day.

The movie did not disappoint. The story follows Lee Fulkerson, who decides to try a vegan plant-based diet after he gets alarming numbers in his bloodwork. Think about the opposite of Super Size Me. Fulkerson was headed down the heart attack highway and dangerously veering towards diabetes--all those warning signs from a simple blood draw, but by following a strict plant-based diet, Fulkerson improved his health profile. So did two other people who had serious health problems in this movie.

Fulkerson consults dieticians, examines health statistics, looks at numbers and checks out studies. The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell plays a big role in this movie. And other doctors such as Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neil Barnard and Dr. John McDougal also discuss the many benefits of plant based diets.

I liked this movie but I also got the impression or message that everything would be great if you changed your diet, and I'm not sure a one-size-fits-all works for diets. Everyone can stand to make positive changes, especially cutting out or back on animal products, but does everyone need to be vegan and totally give up oils, animal products and dairy? I think we all just do the best we can.

The best thing about Forks over Knives is that it's a proactive food message in a crowded sea of scary food movies. Seems to me that after the stock market crash a few years back and with the wars our country is in, we got used to hearing bad news every day. Maybe people just expect it now; maybe, if it's too positive, it sounds false. Where's the conflict? Where's the drama?

A movie with all positive information on dietary changes is now called an infomercial?

Some reviewers like this one expected so much more from this movie. The reviewer called it vegan propaganda, and claimed the movie wove in happy stories and came off like an infomercial. I couldn't help wondering whether this reviewer would have been happier if the movie had depicted murder and torture of vegetables or the vegetarians who made the movie. Aside from the style of the movie, I was a little disappointed that they never got into the specifics of the perfect vegan diet, but overall this movie was as refreshing as the spring sunshine in the Northwest.

Once when I was writing my first book, an editor had encouraged me to be more positive when writing about farming. She'd said, "When people hear too many negative things, they shut down." It was a comment I never forgot. It made me look for the positive spin on anything. The last positive food movie I watched was How to Cook Your Life, the Zen cooking class movie staring Edward Espe Brown. It was released in 2007.

It's about time film makers got more positive and deliver food message movies in a more inspiring, uplifting way. This movie is leading the way. I highly recommend it; for me it represents a beacon of hope for food movies of the future.

This movie is not rated by my Cooking Assistant.

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