Sunday, January 28, 2007

All Things Michael Pollan

You know he’s permeated our culture. After reading his cover story on “nutritionism” in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, I clicked on Technorati to see what bloggers had to say about the piece. I looked around 10:30 am Pacific Time, which is 1:30 pm on the East Coast. There were already dozens of links to the story, most of them praising his opening lines: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Now six hours later, Technorati reports that even more bloggers have used the term “Michael Pollan,” today. And I am one of them.

I am so interested in this because Pollan’s ascent is like viral marketing. He has always been a smart, engaging writer and his third book, The Botany of Desire, was a bestseller. But The Omnivore’s Dilemma hit a nerve among a certain group of Americans, and its concepts on the overproduction of corn, the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, and the high cost of eating organic food that has been transported thousands of miles have entered the mainstream like never before.

Even Pollan admits that the stars lined up for this book. It has surprised him as well. From its publication, The Omnivore's Dilemma has sold well and it keeps on energizing, just like the bunny. The New York Times named it one of the top 10 books of the year and just last week the National Book Critics Circle nominated it as a finalist in its non-fiction category. It’s still on the San Francisco Chronicle’s bestseller list.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma even provoked a cat fight. Pollan criticized Whole Foods for its reliance on fruits and vegetables from large, corporate organic farms over produce from local organic farmers. He argued that transporting the food had a hidden cost, and that it was a mistake to use that much fossil fuel.

Now people in the Bay Area can watch Pollan and the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, argue this point before a live audience. The two will talk about organic food and agriculture at Zellerbach Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus on February 27.

Pollan also will talk with San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll in a more intimate setting on March 13th at St. John's Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Avenue, Berkeley. This is a benefit for Park Day School. Michael’s son used to attend (my daughter goes there) and he has graciously agreed to do an event even though he no longer has a connection to the school.

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