Critics will refer to fans of his writing as members of the "church of Michael Pollan, and last night at First Parish Church in Harvard Square, Cambridge, as the author literally spoke from the pulpit, the jibe hit rather close to home.
For all that, though, Pollan did his best to bring something new to his talk, and not just to "preach to the choir," if you will. He chose samples from his latest book, "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation" for their entertainment value, and for their unexpectedness. By now, anyone who’s going to pay to see Michael Pollan speak gets the point about corn and soy and the concentrated animal feeding operations they supply. Last night’s talk, hosted by the Harvard Book Store, took a slightly different approach to the issue of our food system’s problems, steering away from the politics, and challenging the public to simply carve out more time to cook.
One of Pollan’s main tenets has always been that, rather than focusing on specific nutrients, we should simply eat a diet of whole foods whenever possible. Home cooking is the best way to know exactly what you’re eating, and far less expense than dining out at a fancy organic restaurant.
The book, and the talk, also discussed the history of cooking, and how various culinary discoveries and inventions went hand in hand with developmental milestones in civilization. The innovation of fire, and later that of pots that could withstand heat, allowed for safer and more easily obtained nutrition, as well as the social and ritualistic aspects of the shared meal.
Michael Pollan is the author of Second Nature, A Place of My Own, The Botany of Desire, The Onmivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Food Rules. His newest book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation is now available in paperback from Penguin.