Can plants think? Michael Pollan asks the question. (SLNewYorker)
Some of My Best Friends Are Germs
It is a striking idea that one of the keys to good health may turn out to involve managing our internal fermentation. Having recently learned to manage several external fermentations — of bread and kimchi and beer — I know a little about the vagaries of that process. You depend on the microbes, and you do your best to align their interests with yours, mainly by feeding them the kinds of things they like to eat — good “substrate.” But absolute control of the process is too much to hope for. It’s a lot more like gardening than governing. The successful gardener has always known you don’t need to master the science of the soil, which is yet another hotbed of microbial fermentation, in order to nourish and nurture it. You just need to know what it likes to eat — basically, organic matter — and how, in a general way, to align your interests with the interests of the microbes and the plants. The gardener also discovers that, when pathogens or pests appear, chemical interventions “work,” that is, solve the immediate problem, but at a cost to the long-term health of the soil and the whole garden. The drive for absolute control leads to unanticipated forms of disorder.[more inside]
Here's the conceit: Build a single wood fire and, over the course of 30-plus hours, use it to roast, braise, bake, simmer and grill as many different dishes as possible — for lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch again. The 36-Hour Dinner Party by Michael Pollan
Do plants have a consciousness? Michael Pollan seemed to argue they do in The Botony of Desire (original book) and that they were inextricably involved in co-evolution with their human cultivators, affecting human development, perhaps as much as the humans who are selectively choosing traits in plants. If that’s true, that plants are conscious, is it okay to eat them?
Natalie Portman has been a vegetarian for twenty years, but was recently inspired to become a vegan by Jonathan Safran Foer's first nonfiction book, Eating Animals. Portman wrote an essay for the Huffington Post in which she compares the book favorably to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (previously on the blue), and makes this specific criticism of the latter book:
But he reminds us that being a man, and a human, takes more thought than just "This is tasty, and that's why I do it." He posits that consideration, as promoted by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma, which has more to do with being polite to your tablemates than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don't believe in rape, but if it's what it takes to please my dinner hosts, then so be it).[more inside]
Critics of modern farming practice have swayed popular opinion in recent years. Now farmers are talking back. Farmer Blake Harris takes critics of farming to task for misrepresenting his trade. Another farmer says it's not so simple.
Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch. Michael Pollan discusses the evolution of America's cooking culture, from Julia Child to Top Chef. [via]
Opening this Friday in L.A, New York, and San Francisco, Food, Inc. is a documentary about the modern food industry that features Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Joe Salatin of Polyface Farm, and Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Yogurt. Here's the trailer. And here's a New York Times article about the film. [more inside]
Will the White House have its own farmer? Back in October, Michael Pollan called upon the president-elect to rip up a 5-acre section of the White House's south-facing lawns and hire a farmer to cultivate it. Over 55,000 Americans have nominated Claire Strader to be that farmer, if the Obamas decide to take up a new Victory Garden initiative. The question now is will they? [more inside]
Why bother? "That really is the big question facing us as individuals hoping to do something about climate change," by Michael Pollan.
You are fat because there is too much corn. [NYT, forfeit of first-born son required] I love good old-fashioned materialism, and Michael Pollan (author of The Botany of Desire) scores one for the team with this article on the economics of corn production. Are we fat because New Deal agricultural policy was overturned in the 70s by Rusty Butz? Now there's a trailing question we can all enjoy.