michael pollan

He showed the words ‘chocolate cake’ to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: 'celebration.’
—  Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

Quote from Michael Pollan, an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

If we are ever to right this wrong, to produce food sustainably and justly and sell it at an honest price, we will first have to pay people a living wage so that they can afford to buy it.

UC Berkeley’s Michael Pollan in response to unfair pay in the fast food industry.  He and renowned chef Alice Waters are trying to illustrate how valuing sustainably grown food also means giving food workers a fair living wage.

Michael Pollan interview: "When Food is More Than Food"

Food author Michael Pollan signs his latest book for me at the Bader Theatre in Toronto on June 6, 2013.

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Pollan last night at Victoria College’s Bader Theatre. An elegant speaker, Pollan has written several books on food theory. Tonight he was discussing his latest book called ‘Cooked’.

Michael believes that the organic food movement will go more mainstream, and that this will enable more people to enjoy high quality produce in their kitchens, We have seen a rapid rise in organic food and in farmers’ markets in the past decade, and this trend shows no sign of changing. People are rebelling against the post-1960s industrialization of the food process and are wanting quality and not just quantity once more.

In his new book Michael states that:

“The amount of time spent preparing meals in [North] American households has fallen by half since the mid-sixties…and yet we’re talking about cooking more - and watching cooking. and reading about cooking, and going to restaurants where we can watch the work performed live. We live in an age when professional cooks are household names, some as famous as athletes or movie stars. The very same activity that many people regard as a form of drudgery has somehow been elevated to a popular spectator sport. Millions of people spend more time watching food being cooked on television than they spend actually cooking it themselves. I don’t need to point out that the food you watch being cooked on television is not the food you get to eat. I came to think of this as the Cooking Paradox.”

I think people miss having quality food prepared for them to eat. In the current age of single people living alone, cooking for one is too much work, and there is no one to share the results with - no one to appreciate your efforts. With modern married couples often both persons work outside the home, leaving no one to have the time or inclination to spend an hour or more preparing dinner. It is much easier to pick up take out food on the way home, or processed food from the supermarket, or rely on frozen prepared foods that can be microwaved. The distant days of families having a cook working for them making their food are all but gone except for the wealthiest of households. 

So we spend our time watching Gordon Ramsay on TV, or Iron Chef, or the Food Network. It is food porn TV - we watch, but when it is over we don’t have that for dinner. Likewise, the average buyer of an elaborate illustrated cookbook from the bookstore will look at the illustrations with wide eyes but rarely if ever make anything contained therein. It is no surprise that older cookbooks were rarely illustrated but almost all modern ones are heavily illustrated - we are food voyeurs in the 21st century.

Our outlet, for those who can afford it, is to visit higher end restaurants, such as those I review in this blog, to experience amazing food in our own mouths, and not just in pictures or on TV.  However, cooking should not become a lost art for consumers. Both Michael and I agree on this point. I do spend time cooking high quality food in my own kitchen, even when it is just for me to enjoy. I don’t just go out to eat for fine dining, and I will show examples of my own cooking too in the blog. I is never good to be dependent on the labour of others - knowing how to cook is a strong asset. True the greatest satisfaction is to cook for other people - to give pleasure to others who are your friends or family. I host dinner parties for my friends where I cook up homemade meals for them - it is the essence of togetherness to enjoy a home-cooked quality meal around a dining room table. Gordon Ramsay would agree with me on this, as would Michael Pollan. High-end restaurants and cooking at home go hand in hand in our experience of fine food. I can tell you from experience that once you reach the point where you can cook better than the food coming out of most mid-range restaurant kitchens, you feel a certain satisfaction in being served food you know you can make better yourself at home - and have.

A sold-out Bader theatre full of foodies wait for author Michael Pollan to take to the stage.

Michael’s new book 'Cooked’, which he signed and inscribed for me tonight. I told him about this food blog I write when I talked with him, and he said to send him the web address and he will check it out.

Happy event attendees admire their signed books at the Bader Theatre on June 6th, 2013 in Toronto.

Tomorrow I will post a review of Toronto’s Cafe Boulud.

Quote from Michael Pollan, an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

One of the more pernicious aspects of nutritionism is that it encourages us to blame our health problems on lifestyle choices, implying that the individual bears ultimate responsibility for whatever illnesses befall him. It’s worth keeping in mind that a far more powerful predictor of heart disease than either diet or exercise is social class.

Michael Pollan ~ In Defense of Food

(In response to the “that’s caused by diet, right?” myth)

The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.
—  Michael Pollan
Depending on whom you talk to in the plant sciences today, the field of plant neurobiology represents either a radical new paradigm in our understanding of life or a slide back down into the murky scientific waters last stirred up by “The Secret Life of Plants.” Its proponents believe that we must stop regarding plants as passive objects—the mute, immobile furniture of our world—and begin to treat them as protagonists in their own dramas, highly skilled in the ways of contending in nature. They would challenge contemporary biology’s reductive focus on cells and genes and return our attention to the organism and its behavior in the environment. It is only human arrogance, and the fact that the lives of plants unfold in what amounts to a much slower dimension of time, that keep us from appreciating their intelligence and consequent success. Plants dominate every terrestrial environment, composing ninety-nine per cent of the biomass on earth. By comparison, humans and all the other animals are, in the words of one plant neurobiologist, ‘just traces.’

The Intelligent Plant

Scientists debate a new way of understanding flora.

By Michael Pollan

The New Yorker  December 23, 2013 Issue

“[…] No one I spoke to in the loose, interdisciplinary group of scientists working on plant intelligence claims that plants have telekinetic powers or feel emotions. Nor does anyone believe that we will locate a walnut-shaped organ somewhere in plants which processes sensory data and directs plant behavior. More likely, in the scientists’ view, intelligence in plants resembles that exhibited in insect colonies, where it is thought to be an emergent property of a great many mindless individuals organized in a network. Much of the research on plant intelligence has been inspired by the new science of networks, distributed computing, and swarm behavior, which has demonstrated some of the ways in which remarkably brainy behavior can emerge in the absence of actual brains.”


stop reading michael pollan

if you wanna learn about food justice and the importance of being connected to the earth, stop reading that wet bandaid, and read these people instead:

  • bell hooks
  • wendell berry
  • helen and scott nearing
  • vandana shiva
  • bryant terry
  • gary snyder
  • dolores huerta
  • cesar chavez
  • will allen
  • grace lee boggs
  • majora carter
  • breeze harper
Most of what we’re consuming today is not food, and how we’re consuming it — in the car, in front of the TV, and increasingly alone — is not really eating. Instead of food, we’re consuming ‘edible foodlike substances’ — no longer the products of nature but of food science.
—  Michael Pollan, from In Defense of Food

Pollan explores the landscape of the American diet, where food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion. The result is what he calls the American paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become.

The Botany of Desire (2009) 1h 56min.

Michael Pollan, a professor of journalism and a student of food, presents the history of four plants, each of which found a way to make itself essential to humans, thus ensuring widespread propagation. Apples, for sweetness; tulips, for beauty; marijuana, for pleasure; and, potatoes, for sustenance. Each has a story of discovery and adaptation; each has a symbiotic relationship with human civilization. The film tells these stories and examines these relationships.

The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.
—  Michael Pollan
We have learned to see that food is not a ghetto, it is a door. You can use food to talk about the environment. You can use food to talk about culture. You can use food to talk about politics.
—  A fantastic conversation with Michael Pollan, author of the most important food politics book of the past half-century, whose most recent tome, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, is an absolute must-read.

“There’s something about the idea of cooking through an entire cookbook that’s very appealing. Like you’re going to culinary school for $30. BuzzFeed asked chefs to pick what cookbooks they’d recommend cooking through and explain why. Michael Pollan, author of Cooked, recommends In The Green Kitchen by Alice Waters among others to help change cooking from an occasional thing into a gratifying routine.”