Notable author to discuss food issues in Grass Valley
Know & Go
What: A conversation with foodie intellectual Michael Pollan presented by The Center for the Arts and BriarPatch Co-op
When: 8 p.m. Friday, November 8
Where: Veterans Memorial Hall, Grass Valley
Cost: Tickets are $60 for premium seats; $50 general admission and $45 for members of Briar Patch Co-op.
Michael Pollan, a speaker, journalist, author and college professor, has made a career of exploring and exposing the various elements and issues relating to the modern human food chain, but to boil down the vast synthesis of his oeuvre to a single message — don’t let the corporations feed you.
Whether it’s the industrial agricultural complex, the impact of corn-based products on the human body or his latest point of emphasis, the decline of cooking, Americans have surrendered too much of their food consumption to large profit-driven industries with little to no regard for individual human health, said Pollan.
Pollan, who has been dubbed one of the world’s foremost “foodie intellectuals,” will participate in an onstage conversation beginning 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8 at the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building.
Pollan has increasingly garnered fame and acclaim for his written work, most notably “A Botany of Desire” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” His new book — “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation” — out this year, explores how deferring to corporations and chefs in lieu of preparing meals at home has a detrimental impact on human health.
“Eating out at a fine restaurant is a hedonistic and indulgent experience,” Pollan said. “But we as a culture do it a lot.”
Pollan said food that is prepared in a restaurant typically features higher concentrations of salt, fat and sugar.
“I worked side by side with chefs during research for this book and I was astonished at how much butter they use,” he said. “I watch how much salt they put in a side of steamed vegetables and it’s terrifying, but delicious.”
That’s the point, Pollan said, saying most chefs and corporate food processing entities are more interested in producing something that is delicious and the healthy content of the product is either de-emphasized or altogether absent.
“By the simple work of cooking your own meals, you can really take control of your health,” Pollan said.
While Pollan figures to share much of his findings from his recent effort, he will take questions that may relate to a wide range of issues relating to the food chain. He has written extensively about how the industrialization of agriculture has rendered destructive impacts to the environment and mankind’s fundamental relationship to the age old necessity of food consumption.
“My deepest interest has always been writing about nature,” he said. “I care about the environment and I became interested in how man has changed the world through eating.”
The landscape is often a reflection of agriculture, as rapid deforestation around the globe continues to occur as a means of accommodating the voracious appetite of a global population that continues to balloon, Pollan said.
Pollan said his natural inclination for agriculture has also allowed him to delve into the marijuana issues that continue to capture the attention of Californians and Americans at large.
“Humans have a built in desire to change their consciousness, whether it be through extreme sports, risk-taking, meditation or changing the brain’s chemistry by taking drugs,” he said.
In “Botany of Desire”, Pollan explored the theme of intoxication via cultivation of the marijuana plant.
“There has been a sea change going on around marijuana,” Pollan said. “The war on drugs is winding down and that is an exciting thing.”
Pollan said the decline of policy makers’ interest in punitive measures surrounding drugs has led to the revivification of several studies that look at various drugs and their effects on human health from a more scientific perspective.
Pollan is further interested in many movements, including that of the so-called “locavore,” which encourages consumers to purchase food that is produced or captured closer to home, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, bolstering the local economy and preventing farm lands from being developed.
However, he cautions smart decisions should not be predicated solely on distance.
“Alaskan salmon is a sustainable product,” he said. “Salmon caught in British Columbia, which is closer, is not as sustainable.”
Pollan has also poured research into the gluten-free diet fad, acknowledging that much of the tendency to forsake wheat products can be attributed to the trendy health cause celebre nature of the movement, but said subtle changes in how bread is baked may be responsible for people’s growing intolerance for gluten.
“Wonder Bread, for instance, is not subjected to a long sourdough fermentation process, which naturally breaks down much of the gluten and makes it easier for the body to ingest,” he said, adding that additives and tons of yeast have contributed to making wheat products less amenable to the human digestive system than it was generations ago.
Pollan said it will be difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. But as more people purchase local agricultural products from small sustainable farms, make food selections based on health as opposed to taste, and recapture the importance of preparing meals at home, he said, more individuals will benefit by being healthier, ensuring more robust communities and a more sustainable environmental approach.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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