April 30, 2013

Thoughts from Michael Pollan

Hearing Michael Pollan speak last night at the Oriental Theatre was an amazing experience!  He has so much wisdom to share and helps shed light on what's truly important in today's food environment.  I'll give you a hint, it's not GMOs nor removing gluten from everything.

I sat between Shelby and Lisa who were just as excited as I was to hear Pollan.  In fact, Shelby was going straight home to read Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, which is Pollan's latest book and one that we each received a signed copy of.

This is Pollan's seventh book and from the excerpt he read last night, it sounds like a great one!  I've read Food Rules and In Defense of Food, both of which I've loved.  I started reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, but couldn't get through it.

 To give you an idea of what Pollan spoke about, here are a few notes I took...
  • Americans spend more time watching cooking shows than they do cooking (27 minutes on average per day).  Why would we be obsessed with an activity we're not doing?
  • How much time do you save with frozen foods?  Often you can cook food from scratch in the same amount of time.  Also, frozen food is more expensive, tastes like airline food and has a salty generic fast food flavor.  After bite three, the taste quickly deteriorates.
  • Lack of cooking is due to a lack of skills and confidence not a lack of time.
  • "Eat anything you want as long as you cook it" is wisdom that came from deep in the belly of the big Ag beast.

  • Cooked is sunnier than anything he's ever written, with a much more positive outlook.
  • We make time for the things we know our important, such as going to the gym, cooking should be the same way.
  • Better for you processed food is a trap - remember Snackwells?  We got fat on low-fat food.
  • Food is a generational issue for people in their 20s and there is now a proliferation of cooking classes.  YouTube videos are a great source.
  • Amount of time cooking declined steadily since 1965 but we finally saw an uptick recently, which means we may have bottomed-out.
  • We need to bring back Home-Ec.  Teaching children how to cook is one of the most important things we can do and it would be great if schools could help out.
  • Those who can cook should show others, invite them into your kitchen.

  • The dairy industry has done a great job of convincing you that your kids won't have bones without milk.  Spinach is a better source of calcium.
  • It's hard to believe that our biology is changing as fast as the marketing for gluten-free has. 
  • Processed vs ultra-processed.  Canned tomatoes are a great product, however jarred tomato sauce has tremendous amounts of salt and sugar.  Flash-frozen vegetables are often more nutritious.
  • We have a right to know if we're eating genetically modified food, but there are bigger, more important issues.


  1. From those of us who couldn't be there, thank you!

  2. Great cliff notes, Karis!

  3. I'm just curious, since you obviously devote a lot of time to cooking--do you agree with his quote about lack of confidence vs. lack of time? That one baffles me.

    1. I think the two are connected. When I first started cooking I felt like I was wasting my time when recipes didn't turn out, which makes it easy to justify not cooking. In other words, if I eat this Trader Joe's soup for dinner, I know it'll taste good and I'll also have time to watch TV because it only took 2 minutes to microwave :)

  4. Sounds like it was an interesting event!