Sitting down to write this post, I was trying to think of the many ways in which I could set-up my story. How I could relate this serendipitous find to some made-for-movie moment, or attempt to draw conclusions between thought and action and discovery. But, honestly, that would probably be boring to all of you and I’m just not feeling particularly creative. So, potentially long story short: I got to meet Michael Pollan. MICHAEL. POLLAN. Author of In Defense of Food and Omnivore’s Dilemma. American Idol to every urban hippie with an Aerogarden and a Prius. Here’s proof:
Just look at that devilishly handsome dome. Put on by West Roxbury Reads, Pollan was in town to talk to the good people of Boston-proper about eating locally and sustainably, and about his book, In Defense of Food, which recently came out in paperback.
A lot of what he threw out there, I’ve heard before. In Defense of Food is extremely thorough in the way it presents information about just how severely “nutritional science” and the Western diet have corrupted our health, lifestyle, and environment. However, there is always a certain thrill in hearing an author read his own words
One point Pollan mentioned in passing that I was particularly drawn to was his assertion of the importance of cooking. This is something he is absolutely passionate about. And it makes sense: if everyone would just cook more– and I mean cook, not heat up a bag of Green Giant Steamers– we would see a revolutionary change in our society. People would be healthier, there would be less waste because it would eliminate a lot of the packaging, and I would even go so far as to say: we’d change the face of American culture.
American culture, right now, is centered around foods that are cheap and fast: the McDonald’s burger, DQ Blizzard, KFC bucket-o-chicken. They satisfy this intrinsic need we have for instant gratification, for flashy advertising and brand-recognition, and for existing in a constant state of sensory-overload. We are so removed from our food (hey, I have no idea how this apple got here, I just know that if I want a Red Delicious on a frigid Tuesday in March, you can for sure bet I can get one); therefore, food becomes this thing. It becomes an interrupter in our lives (hence the prevalence of on-the-go food) or something associated with enormous amounts of guilt (i.e. every low-fat, no-carb food product or diet book that assaults our eyes every time we walk into a grocery store).
If we start cooking, we would unearth a new culinary spirit, one that is focused back on the farms and gardens that sustain us, rather than the brands and packaging that market to us. We would realize that the meal is not only the food, but the time it requires to prepare the food, the elements required to tease out flavor and texture, and the physical effort required by our own hands to physically make a meal. So, I’m challenging anyone who may read this (as well as myself) to cook just one more meal a week than you normally would. Just one. Mix up some pasta agliata at home on a Friday, then show up for margaritas at your local spot. Pull together a quick Australian Grilled Swordfish for friends while watching the baseball game. There’s a little more planning and effort involved, I know… but if you want to break away in any small step from our go-go-go, now-now-now American cultural (non)sensibility, I honestly believe the first step will be with food.