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Michael Pollan’s Food Heroes

Posted Feb 04 2010 8:01am


In a recent interview with’s Joanne Camas, slow food advocate Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) revealed seven of his “food heroes,” farmers and writers who epitomize the slow/local/simple/real food movement. And guess what three out of seven of those people had in common. Go on. (Hint: it rhymes with Spelsea Spleen.)

Aw, heck, I’ll just tell you: Joel Salatin, Eliot Coleman, and Joan Gussow are all authors whose books are either published or distributed by Chelsea Green. We’re immensely proud to be a part of the growing movement away from the fast, high-fructose corn syrupy, pre-packaged, gas station fare that seems to have become a staple of the American diet and towards a more responsible, natural diet. And while simple isn’t necessarily easy, getting your meals from the farmer’s market or your local natural food co-op, or even growing it yourself, is really a win-win-win: better for you, better for the planet, and just plain tastier.

From Today on

Epicurious: If “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is an eater’s manifesto, did you write “Food Rules” as a guide to putting the manifesto into practice?

Michael Pollan: That’s the basic idea. After reading “In Defense of Food,” several doctors told me, “I’ve got patients I’d like to give the background to, just a list of rules.” People were sending me their own rules, and I set up a Web site where they could post them … There was that repository of wisdom about food out there that we didn’t have. I’ve compiled information from doctors, anthropologists, folklorists, and more.

Epi: Do you have a favorite Food Rule?

MP: It changes, but probably, “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” And this one’s weird because it’s so blunt: “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead.”

Epi: The Food Rules are very simple though not always easy to act on. Which rule is most difficult for you to follow?

MP: I don’t have much trouble with them, but if I had to name one, probably Number 46, “Stop eating before you’re full.” That’s a challenge for Americans, who’ve been trained to eat till they’re full and finish what’s on their plate.

Epi: A related rule, “Leave something on your plate,” surprised me. Isn’t waste against the principles of ethical eating? Wouldn’t it be better to simply shrink portions to eat less?

MP: It’s a form of self-discipline, instead of your plate dictating when you’re full. I’m talking about a bite or two, not leaving a big pile of food.

Epi: Do you think there’s hope for improving the Western diet, or are we too far gone?

MP: I think there’s hope as we’re starting to recognize the toll this diet takes: One third of the population is now obese; there are soaring rates of Type 2 diabetes. Eating this way is going to bankrupt the country. The same kind of feedback on smoking changed our habits, and the smoking rate has gone down significantly; we’re on course for that kind of change in food.


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