When I heard that journalist Michael Pollan was coming to speak in Kalamazoo, I immediately signed up. I’m a big fan of this writer – mostly because he’s a great researcher. He really goes in-depth into how our food system works (or doesn’t). He was brought here by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.
His focus was on the act of cooking and what it means – the subject of his latest book, Cooked, now out in paperback. He stated that real cooking is a
There are too many food systems horror stories, and the one that he started out with this time was Russet Burbank potatoes. You’ve all eaten them – they’re what McDonald’s uses for their French fries. They’re long and grown to ‘look perfect.’
For this story, he visited a mega-farm that was fully automated. The ‘farmer’ had video cameras of the acreage of potatoes and worked the controls remotely for watering and pesticide application. They use the pesticide Monitor to prevent anything from marring the potatoes – even when the marks don’t affect potato quality or taste. When Monitor is applied, no one can enter the field for 3 – 4 days, because it’s so dangerous.
Pollan went on to describe the storage room full of harvested potatoes. They need to be held there for six weeks to off-gas the chemicals that had been applied during the growing process. I don’t know who decided that after six weeks, they’re ‘safe’ but, no thanks!
Now you see where he’s going with his thoughts on cooking. “Not cooking has to do with the kind of food system we have,” Pollan stated. When researching the book In Defense of Food he found that the healthiest diets were those cooked by humans, not corporations.
Research he mentioned indicates that people spend an average of 27 minutes cooking a meal, and 4 minutes cleaning up. Four minutes? I wish! Or, maybe not…. Opening up a spice pack or can of soup to add to pasta is not really cooking. “Americans spend more time watching people cook on TV than they actually do cooking,” said Pollan. “The family meal is an endangered institution. It’s where we civilize and socialize our children.”
Not only is processed food full of sugar, fat, and salt, but they often market individual meals which can undermine the family meal. So, when Pollan stated that the family meal is the nursery of democracy, was it farfetched? I don’t believe so.
You, readers, have much more control over the food system than you’ve been led to believe. You can change your health and the planet one meal at a time. What kind of food system do you want?
And, finally, Pollan noted, “The food movement offers farmers something that they haven’t had in a long time – new customers; new products; new markets.”
Go forth and cook!
LEARN TO EAT LOCAL
Q & A Time (lighting not great for photography)
If you can’t find these books local, they are in my Amazon Affiliates store.