Thursday, January 28, 2010

In Defense of Michael Pollan

I was supposed to be blogging today about the genius that is Michael Pollan. He was speaking at a free event in Campbell, CA last night. Several friends and I decided to go. Turned out several hundred friends decided to invite their friends, and they brought their friends and so on and son on. There had to be two thousand people milling around the 800 seat Campbell Heritage Theater waiting for the doors to open.

It was heartening to see that many people come out to hear a man who advocates: Eat Less. Mostly Plants. Of course, it was the first day without rain in more than a week. Or it may have been his appearance on Oprah that very afternoon that brought out so many folks.

We stood in line for half hour, enjoying the finally clear skies and the anticipation. It was clear from the moment we joined the line that we stood very little chance of getting in, but we kept hoping. No luck.

So I didn't get to experience what kind of speaker Pollan was in person. I've heard him on the radio several times (you can check out these programs: and know that he's an engaging interviewee. I'd be really been looking forward to be a part of an audience and feel that inspiration a good speaker can invoke.

What he is for sure is a good writer. His subjects - food, sustainable farming, feedlots - could be dull fare. But he is skilled writer, one who brings his readers in close, with emotion and personal touches.

One of my favorites of his books is The Botany of Desire. If you think Johnny Appleseed is a fairy tale, you'll be surprised at Pollan's take on how vital he was to our society. You'll never look at an apple or potato in the same way after reading this book. You'll have learned plenty without being lectured to.

If Michael Pollan comes to your town, go see and let me know what you think. Just be sure to get there early.


Betty Hechtman said...

I read In Defense of Food and you're right, he is an engaging writer. Too bad you didn't get to hear him, though after a week of rain, it must have been good just to get out.

I saw a few minutes of him on the Oprah repeat at 1 a.m. before I fell asleep.

Sheila Connolly said...

Michael Pollan is one of my heroes (and I've actually dedicated my next book to him)--he's changed the way I look at food. I saw Food, Inc., in a theater with about four other people and thought it was brilliant--I just wish more people had seen it.

I grew up with the commercialized Disney version of Johnny Appleseed, that lovable old coot with a pot on his head. He was so much more than that--he was a shrewd and successful businessman, and he did have a major impact on apple distribution on the frontier. Of course, the apples were used to make alcoholic beverages, a fact that Disney kind of skipped over.

I would be thrilled at the opportunity to hear Pollan speak.

Camille Minichino said...

Omnivore's Dilemma caught my attention. I'd love to hear him speak also.
Will have to check out the new one.

mardott said...

I heard him speak at a seminar I attended at Cal a few years ago. He does hold the audience well. Who knew he'd be a rock star, one day?

His books are tops on my list to recommend to my food clients. A simple, direct message. He's marvelous.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I think he's fascinating. I need to read his books--I've just heard him on NPR.