Saturday, July 19, 2008

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan's books include In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

San Francisco-based journalist Kate Cheney Davidson recently interviewed Pollan for Yale Environment 360.

One exchange from the Q & A:

e360: So how does this latest book, In Defense of Food, fit within your genre of nature writing?

Pollan: After An Omnivore’s Dilemma a lot of people said, “Well, aren’t you preaching to the choir?” I hated hearing that. I wanted to write a book that didn’t preach to the choir, which brought in a whole other circle of readers. I set out to write as popular and accessible and short a book as I can write. The subtitle is “An Eater’s Manifesto,” and it is a political book. Its motto: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” isn’t exactly “Workers of the World Unite,” but in its own quiet way the goal is to invite people to this movement who might not think they have a stake in it.

In general people are motivated by their sense of personal health. This is why people began buying organic food. It wasn’t to change the world, most of them. It was really because they thought they would be safer eating this food than industrial food. So health is a very important way in with people.

But my message in this book is that your health is inseparable from the health of whole food chain that you’re a part of. That was the sort of stunning thing I learned writing both books — that there’s a direct connection between the health of the soil, the health of the plants, the health of the animals, and you as eater. We’re not just eating piles of chemicals that we can get from anywhere. All carrots are not created equal. Some of them are actually more nutritious than others. How the animals were raised has not just a bearing on their health, but on your health.

So that, I think, is the kind of the covert politics of the book: that your health is not bordered by your own skin, and that you must take a broader view of it if you’re really concerned. We have science now to back this up: that the healthfulness and the nutritiousness of the food you eat really depend on how it’s grown, not what it is.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue