The other day, a librarian helping me locate a copy of Michael Pollan's Food Rules looked at me sheepishly and said, "I know I should read his books, but I'm not sure I want to. I know they'll scare me and make me change the way I eat."
This exchange shaped the first question of my interview with Pollan, the celebrated journalist, author, and food activist who made a name for himself with his books the Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Food Rules. Over the phone I asked Pollan how he reaches folks who are resistant to his message. "I never twist anyone's arm," he says. "One of the reasons I wanted to do an illustrated version of Food Rules was to underline the pleasures of eating well and eating healthily. The book, and the cover illustration in particular, is an open invitation to come to the table and enjoy. I learned that from Alice Waters...she always leads with pleasure and taste—then people are open to learning about food and where it comes from."
Tomorrow evening at 7:30 p.m., Pollan will speak at the Paramount Theatre. The format is more conversational than a standard lecture, which Pollan says helps him get in touch with what's happening in the here and now. "I haven't spoken in Denver since the Omnivore's tour," he says. "The story is constantly changing. What's going on in this country around food is a conversation. It's going to take years to play out and it happens on many different stages."
Pollan will also discuss his upcoming projects, one of which is a new book about transformation—from the basics of cooking by fire to the really refined processes of turning milk and grain into cheese and beer. "I'm looking at the other end of the food chain," he says. "The more I work on these issues, the more I realize the industrial food problem and the cooking problem are the same problem. We are not going to be able to reform the food system unless people cook more."
Which brings me back to the beginning. I asked Pollan to recommend one food rule for my library friend. His answer: "Cooking is the most important thing she can do," he says, referring to Rule No. 82. "Now, if she doesn't cook, I would tell her [Rule No. 2]: "Don't eat anything her grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."
The Details: Tickets are still available through TicketHorse.com. (Use the password "GREEN" for a discounted price.)
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—Photo by Ken Light