When Michael Pollan arrives in Seattle this week to talk food politics at Benaroya Hall, he’ll be preaching to the choir. Here, many of us dine with religious fervor and pray at the altar of neighborhood farmers markets. Our bible? Pollan’s books: “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food.”
His commandments: “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” in which he leads us not into temptation, decrying “Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk,” “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t” and (bless him!) “Have a glass of wine with dinner.”
He’s a star of stage and screen — witness the Oscar-nominated documentary “Food, Inc.” But he’s also the kind of guy you’d want to invite to dinner. Now, before you rush out to buy a couple of grass-fed Thundering Hooves T-bones, hear this:
“I’m not that hard to please,” insists one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2010. “I never ask the provenance of the meat, or ‘Is this organic?’ I pretty much eat what people put in front of me.”
Michael Pollan returns to Seattle this week to speak at Benaroya Hall Saturday, January 15.
[Seattle Times/John Lok]
Pollan’s son, Isaac, was one of those finicky kids who ate only white food, a common childhood quirk that piqued Pollan’s own interest in how — and what — we eat, notes the University of California, Berkeley, professor. Isaac’s teenage turnaround was precipitated by an internship at “our local luncheonette” (cough, Chez Panisse).
“I knew he turned the corner when he came home and I asked, ‘What did you have for dinner tonight?’ and he said, ‘Quail, but I much prefer squab.'” Now 18, his son’s a very good cook, says Pollan, though “every now and then he’ll go eat chicken nuggets, to taunt me.”
“Family Ties” run strong in the Pollan family. Michael’s sister Tracy met her future husband, Michael J. Fox, on the set of that long-running sitcom. Mother Corky is a former style editor for Gourmet magazine, though her son remembers her best as the mom who’d “watch Julia Child and make that stuff for four pretty unappreciative kids.”
The heirloom apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: Father Stephen is a best-selling author and life coach, and the financial guru who hailed for years as CNBC’s “The Answer Man.”
That said, you’re more likely to find famous agrarian Wendell Berry’s essay collection “Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food” by Michael’s bedside than dad’s best-seller “Fire Your Boss.”
If we’d paid more attention to Berry’s wisdom regarding sustainable agriculture, “we could have saved ourselves a lot of pain,” says Pollan of his prescient predecessor. And perhaps, if we bow to the teachings of Pollan — whose next treatise, about cooking, is due in 2012 — future generations will be saying the same about him.
Pollan’s lecture, “In Defense of Food: The Omnivore’s Solution” will be held Saturday at 8 p.m. at Benaroya Hall (200 University St.). Tickets are $25-$44 (general seating). A limited number of $100 seats include a prelecture wine reception. Call 206-215-4747 or purchase tickets online.