Review – Food, Medicine, and the Quest for Good Health
by Nancy N. ChenColumbia University Press,
2008Review by A.Ch.F. Weizmann, Ph.D.Oct 27th 2009
(Volume 13, Issue 44)
Nancy N. Chen is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. One of her main fields of research, as a medical anthropologist, is the connections between food and medicine. As professor Chen tells us her passion for food and medicine comes from her family and her childhood years. From her mother he learned the influence of the food on the style of life and on the social dealings of the daily life.
Nancy Chen has written an especially appealing book with a method full of technical expertise and very enjoyable to read because it is written with a kindly and fine style. What is good food and what is good medicine?: these are the key questions of her book. She thinks- with reason- that food is interrelated with the culture and “beliefs systems” of the different ways of life.
Within those “beliefs systems” Dr. Chen proposes the “healing foods” that are set in the framework of ethnicity and values. In this sense her book is very attractive not only for the people who wants only to know how to “eat well” (good and healing food and not merely “junk food”) but also to the researchers in anthropology, psychological medicine, psychology, social psychology etc.
In Part I Dr. Chen studies food in the perspective of cultural standards but above all how the food market (and related markets) frames our idea and make use of food. In Part II the reference to the industrial food and the pharmaceutical big business explain, with acumen and good sense, that the dealings stuck between medicine and health don’t are at all times well cherished or prop up.
This book is inspired by an unusual common sense, love of people and knowledge of the anthropological, historical and profound meaning of medicine. Chen didn’t fail to remember Hippocrates (460 BC) and his treatise “On Regimen in Acute Diseases”, the Chinese Sun Simiao (AD 581-682) and his “Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold for Emergencies”).
These classical works stressed out the value of dietetic prescriptions as crucial element of high-quality medicine as method of integral healing.
Dr. Chen, all the way through the pages of her helpful book, make a case that eating is not only about consuming meals and food in general but to eat healthy is an element of a cultural mind-set and outlook.
Certainly how to eat it is not a minor issue in our life but, as this excellent book teaches us, it is a choice of good health and good life.