Friday, March 6, 2009

You say you want a revolution

Well, you know, we all want to change the world. With food, we can. And it starts in our kitchens and our gardens. No guns, just forks.

So, there are a few things on my mind these days. One is something I came across in my recent reading of "In Defense of Food," by one of my favorite authors ever, Michael Pollan. (To be honest, it is not his best work, and I kept putting it down as I struggled through the first 2/3 of the relatively short work -- dry and academic, this section, if shortened, might have fit well in a medical journal. Oh, but the last 1/3 of the book makes it all worthwhile. There was the writer I knew and loved.) Near the end, Pollan touches on the Slow Food movement and pitches the idea that to spend the time and money to prepare good food is just the ticket we need to reform the disaster which is the widely accepted American view of food. Don't get me wrong, I love America and Americans, but I also love food and it needs a bit of a leg-up in the cultural appreciation department these days.

Of course the Slow Food movement was started by the Italians (who else?) in response to this very thing: fast food and the attendant decline of culture. (And, yes, at the risk of sounding like a foodie, I do agree with Pollan and others that the decline in the value placed on food in our country is nothing short of a national tragedy.) It will take deliberate -- and, fortunately, delicious -- action to transition the dominant American perception of food as nothing more than cheap, fast fuel for our bodies into something we relish with all of our senses and enjoy with others. (I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.) When and where did we lose sight of the connection between the land, our food, and ourselves (our culture)? Pollan offers some theories and, thankfully, some solutions. Most of his recommendations are pretty sound. (While I don't agree with the anti-snacking -- I am a lifelong proponent of grazing -- I think I understand the reason it was included in the "How to Eat" section: too much snacking on low quality "food products" is a bad idea. Well... yes.)

Slow Food is "precisely the wedge that can begin to crack the whole edifice [...] To reclaim this much control over one's food, to take it back from industry and science, is no small thing; indeed, in our time cooking from scratch and growing any of your own food qualify as subversive acts." Now, I wonder if he is going to wind up on the list of most dangerous Americans for a statement like that, much as Barbara Kingsolver did when she promoted a similar idea in "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." (Wait, will this post get me on that list? Shoot. I can see the headline now: "Food-obsessed Gardening Cyclist Sows Seeds of Discontent Across America." Kind of catchy, actually.)


  1. And if that's not enough, this would ensure Pollan a spot on the list: (Get rid of the Iowa caucus?? Good heavens!)

  2. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - my favorite. It just sums it all up so eloquently, doesn't it?


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