God, I like food.
I like thinking about it. I like talking about it. And to be fair, I don’t exclusively mean the preparation and cooking of food, though that is a totally neat thing and often very exciting. I’d like to make it even more exciting. But what I really mean, right now, over all, is the concept of food.
The meanings I had for food growing up were so different from the meanings I have now. I don’t know if anyone ever taught me where my spaghetti came from, or maybe I just didn’t let that information in. Maybe it wasn’t interesting then. I had a (very) brief vegetarian phase in grade school, but I still ate the lamb my mother made for her dinner party—I just complained about it. I don’t remember that lasting very long, but at least then I seemed to realize where the food had come from.
These days I am fascinated with the dichotomy between what we eat and how it grew. Often the thing we’re eating bears no reasonable resemblance to the actual organism it once was. It was only in the last few years that I realized how anti-conscious my meat-eating had become, food is something you buy from a store, an object or faceless element, like pumping fuel into a gas tank. What is this funny pile of molecules called “chicken”, completely separate from an animal I’ve never met of the same name? But meat isn’t faceless (or shouldn’t be) and I am coming to believe that even a humble green bean or asparagus deserves more than the lot we offer them—as Reel Big Fish has suggested, even lettuce is worthy of a little consideration. If I’m going to respect a cow or a pig for its nutritional content and creatureness, I can likewise respect a handful of sprouts, or a cucumber, or a carrot. And I think I want to.
So finding Michael Pollan came at a really good time for me, a few months ago. I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma, having seen it mentioned in one of Violet’s articles, as well as having been recommended it by friends in passing. The message I got from this book was all about respecting food, and respecting myself, and being really conscious of the complex systems in the universe that led to me being fed at all—and conscious, too, of the additional complexity added by commerce and industry. And how complexity itself can sometimes be awe-inspiring… or scary. (Or both!)
I looked for Michael Pollan’s blog, feeling that he must have one. But he didn’t. (Or at least, I couldn’t find one.) So I was sad. I wasn’t sure if his other books were anything like this one, so I let it go. But a few days ago, Missy pointed me to Science Friday—and an interview with Michael Pollan! It is this interview I point you to now, because it’s a great interview, and it’s about his recently released In Defense of Food. This vibes perfectly with the way I’ve been feeling lately and I am really excited to read it. In any case, you can listen to the whole interview right on the Science Friday website. (Please do!) It’s super awesome.
Science Friday: Michael Pollan – In Defense of Food (Friday, January 4th, 2008)
I am really interested in your thoughts on this whole issue, if you care to comment on it. Food is awfully exciting lately!