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Michael Pollan's latest

(article, Culinate staff)

Michael Pollan's latest New York Times Magazine feature, '"Some documents the current science on the complicated relationship between humans and bacteria. 

This science isn't totally new — Michael Specter wrote about what scientists call '"the last fall in the New Yorker, and Moises Velasquez-Manoff recently explored bacteria's role in weight loss for Mother Jones — but Pollan emphasizes the connections between our bacteria and our diets:

bq. Few of the scientists I interviewed had much doubt that the Western diet was altering our gut microbiome in troubling ways. Some . . . are concerned about the antimicrobials we’re ingesting with our meals; others with the sterility of processed food. Most agreed that the lack of fiber in the Western diet was deleterious to the microbiome, and still others voiced concerns about the additives in processed foods, few of which have ever been studied for their specific effects on the microbiota. 

In recent years, Pollan has become something of a lightning rod for critics. He's been accused of both elitism and sexism for advocating spending more money on food and more time at home cooking. Plenty of commenters on his latest Times piece chewed him out for reporting on science that's not exactly new, and readers of his latest book — Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, which includes a discussion of microbiomes — have trotted out the sexist-pig and spoiled-elitist arguments again.

In her review of Pollan's new book on the blog The Smart Set, Sara Davis provides a tidy summary of Pollan's position in American culture today: 

bq. Michael Pollan has what must be the biggest platform of any food writer in the country. He earned it, making his name through the rigorous investigation historical and contemporary food politics and tapping into growing national concerns about what food is made of and how we obtain it. The mainstreaming of food politics and Michael Pollan’s celebrity status are intertwined: Collectively, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and the documentary '"Food, (for which he was a consultant) have profoundly shifted conversations about food in the country, bringing the discourse of food out of the province of counter-cultural activists and conspiracy theorists so that even the average overworked American might be equipped to look at food labels in a more critical light.

But Davis is underwhelmed by Cooked_: "Does this book and its promotional tie-ins comprise an elaborately executed piece of multimedia performance art, a parody of the foodie intellectual on the level of Joaquin Phoenix growing a beard and releasing a rap album? I’m going to go with the poorly executed parody theory."