Tag Archives: Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan Knows Food

If you want to know more about food, read Michael Pollan. The man knows his food. He’s written at least three great books, one of which I already posted about. I wanted to jot some additional notes on the others.

Omnivore’s Dilemma is a look at the food industry. I got through the first part about corn, but then I had to put it down. He’s a great writer, but the market forces he describes bearing down on the food industry just became too depressing for me to bear. If you want something a little more upbeat, go with In Defense of Food, which describes how best to eat in a world as depressing as the one described in Omnivore’s Dilemma.

But what I like best about Pollan’s work has less to do with food and more to do with his ability to clarify economic and sociological forces that come to bear on an industry. In Botany of Desire he describes how the War on Drugs inadvertently gave us better and more potent marijuana. I haven’t smoked pot in ages, but I remember when it was light green flakes and often cost less than $20 an ounce. Pollan offers an entire history of pot and how the drug crackdown forced pot growers underground, where they tinkered with hybrids until they were able to grow incredibly potent pot indoors. A lot of the hooligans pulling these underground shenanigans were people right here in the Pacific Northwest (Matt Briggs’s, Shoot the Buffalo has characters in the PNW that make a living growing pot indoors).

Fascinating stuff.

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Michael Pollan’s, In Defense of Food

Somehow all my Michael Pollan library requests came through at the same time. I just finished his most recent book, In Defense of Food.

Something about this book touches the part of me that naturally mistrusts doctors (and varying degrees of eggheads all over). I have only just recently learned some of the nutritionist lingo, but who hasn’t been skewered by some smug nutritionists at some point in their life? Pollan’s big idea is to steer clear of foods (what he would describe as pseudo-foods) more than five ingredients, long chemical names, and (especially) any food with a health claim on its label. Why? Because you’re better off. The whole process of getting food to your table is highly politicized, with big business looking out for shareholder interests, instead of yours or mine. Trans fats anyone?

So I was totally onboard with Pollan’s smackdown of the nutritionist until I came to the part where he suggest we should make our meals more of a social event. He wants us to engage with food in ways that foster community and ritual. Yeah, yeah.

Sounds good until I realize this means we can no longer eat meals at our desks. What? That’s where I draw the line.

It’s funny how you don’t realize how important something is to you until someone tries to take it away.

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