Sat 19 Jun 2010 10:31 pm
Check out the Sunday edition of The Seattle Times for my Q&A with Michael Pollan.
I had lunch with Pollan a few years ago, and was impressed even then with his smart, thoughtful take on what we were eating and where our country was headed. I’ve always admired his combination of shoe-leather reporting and clear thinking; how he can, for instance, cut through the endless circular arguments over whether high-fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar. (There are entirely different reasons to avoid foods containing HFCS, he says — it’s a “reliable marker for a food product that has been highly processed,” and it has some significant environmental problems.)
The issues Pollan deals with have become stunningly mainstream, and it was a treat to get to follow up on some of the topics we had talked about when they were less in the public eye. (He had this to say about health care reform and the insurance industry: “What the food movement has lacked until now is a powerful corporate ally, and it may have gotten one.”)
And, Pollan himself is now being looked to as a leader in the good-food movement as much as a reporter — not a role most journalists are comfortable juggling. I asked how he felt about that:
“This is a movement that is in need of leadership…But it’s not a role I’m well suited to. I’m not a political actor. I know how to talk to the public, I don’t know how to negotiate with the food industry, I don’t know how to move legislation in Congress, I don’t know how to write legislation. If you told me, “OK, buddy, put up or shut up, how do we write the farm bill?” I don’t know how we do that. And the movement needs people who do, people who understand the ways of Washington.
“But there are signs that these people are emerging. There are a lot of young people getting into the food movement now; they ask me how to get involved. I tell them to go to law school and do things like that. They all want to be chefs and writers, but we need other people, other roles.”
The edited interview is online here. And if you’re interested in hearing Pollan firsthand, this interview came about because he’ll be speaking at the American Cheese Society conference in Seattle in August. I’ll be writing more about the conference as it approaches, but the basic conference info is here.