Michael Pollan in Madison and the culture of food
Using a box of Froot Loops and some Go-Gurt as props, Michael Pollan--looking natty in a sportcoat and tennis shoes--spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of about 7,000 people last week at the University of Wisconsin's Kohl Center. Not too shabby for a weeknight author event.
Yet I wasn't surprised in the least by the turnout: here in
As one of the speakers introducing Pollan noted, about 10% of Wisconsinites work in agriculture-related jobs. While no one in my family farms anymore, my grandparents (now both deceased) raised hogs and Angus beef cattle. My aunt and uncle ran a family dairy farm and still live on that land. As for me, I don't even garden and hay makes me sneeze like you can't believe--but I'm truly proud of the farming my family members have done. Farming is physically demanding and financially risky. If you like to eat, you should appreciate what farmers do.
But back to Pollan:
part of what I appreciate about both his book and his talk at the UW is
the way in which culture has not been left out of the equation. In fact, one of the big drivers behind Pollan's
Just as food is a big part of
Local visual artists have also engaged in food-related
issues. I still remember an excellent
show the James Watrous Gallery of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and
Letters did on the theme of farming in 2007, "Wisconsin's People on the Land" (my review is archived here). And, timed to coincide with Pollan's
multi-day stint in
While I've never been completely disconnected from my food, Pollan has inspired me to make the extra effort to buy local food more frequently and do "real" cooking more often. (Yet I'll never, ever, give up the occasional donut; life would no longer be worth living.) It's not just about me and my health or quality of life--it's about being invested in this place where I live, in many senses of that word.
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