Interview with Michael Pollan
By Rick Kleffel
The Agony Column, January 21, 2008
Sure, I’m on a food binge. But not what is usually meant when one hears the words “food” and “binge” put together.
Readers can’t but help having noticed the cookbooks creeping into The Rolling Shelves, and the increasing number of food-related books that have come my way. A couple of weeks ago, I ran the panel I conducted with Michael Pollan, Mollie Katzen and Ann Vileisis; this week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Pollan before his appearance at Capitola Book Café.
Let me first emphasize that for all the wonderful, scare-ifying facts that Pollan pulls out in ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ and ‘In Defense of Food’, the real strength of both works is his top-notch prose, which manages to be painfully clear while cheerfully observing the absurdity that is the Western Diet. The books are constantly entertaining on a reading-the-words level as well as a the-facts-the-words-are-conveying level. Well written and easy-to-read, they are nonetheless quite different. ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ is a trip down the rabbit hole of where your food comes from – and why. The book accurately reflects the subject, which means it’s a journey from the table back to the farm, via some places you might not expect to visit or look as they look. Pollan takes apart four different meals, tracing each part of the meal back to where it came from. He visits factory farms and the incredible Polyface Farms, a truly organic operation. Even though Pollan is going to tell you things you’d prefer not to know, you’ll be glad to know them and glad you got the facts in a manner as engaging as the facts are alarming. ‘In Defense of Food : An Eater’s Manifesto’ is a carefully constructed polemic, a cri de coeur for more sensible eating. It’s short, snappy and crystalline where ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ is dark, long and labyrinthine. But it’s equally funny. Don’t read it too fast.
I talked with Mr. Pollan about both books, following the common threads from one to the next. You can hear the MP3 of the interview from this link. But I must warn you that if you listen in your car, while eating and driving, you may find your appetite for fast food is diminished. For which you’ll wish to thank Mr. Pollan.