Share This Page

Author Pollan will explore good, bad eating habits

| Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Micahel Pollan
Food author Michael Pollan, shown speaking in St. Louis Park, Minneosta, continues his in-depth study of diet and eating habits with 'Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.'
Amazon
“Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation” by Michael Pollan

“It's the best and the worst of times.”

In this case, the reference is not to a line in Dickens' “A Tale of Two Cities,” but to a nation continuing to grapple with the way it eats. Michael Pollan, best-selling author, professor and food guru, uses the phrase as food for thought when discussing American eating habits.

“There is a much greater number of people paying attention to where their food comes from. They're cooking more, buying organic,” says Pollan, who will visit Pittsburgh this weekend. “On the other hand, we still have the dominance of fast food and a new range of fast-food restaurants flaunting unhealthiness.”

The Hillman Center for Performing Arts at Shady Side Academy will welcome Pollan at 7:30 p.m. May 10. Chef Bill Fuller, the mastermind behind Pittsburgh's Big Burrito Group, will interview Pollan onstage, with a book-signing to follow.

Pollan has explored how people relate to food through his books and articles for more than 25 years. His books include The New York Times best-sellers “Food Rules: An Eater's Manual;” “In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto;” “The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” and “The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World.”

His latest title, 2013's “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” delves into the power of the four classical elements — fire, water, air and earth — to transform nature into food and drink.

Pittsburgh is the first stop on Pollan's two-week tour. The well-known foodie has been to the 'Burgh for speaking engagements several times and remembers visiting the Strip District and enjoying a meal at Lidia's.

On a national level, Pollan says he's pleased to see more people embracing home cooking — particularly men — and more big-box stores like Walmart offering organic produce. However, America's reliance on fast food remains problematic, especially with restaurants trying to out-unhealthy one another, he says.

“It's like KFC with the Double Down sandwich or Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Taco — they're flagrantly junkie,” he says.

Cooking at home is a healthier, less expensive and a surprisingly less time-consuming option, Pollan says. Frozen meals often cost more than their homemade counterparts, he says, and take a great deal of time to heat.

“The time you spend waiting for your food, you could be cooking,” he says.

For those who still feel the time crunch, Pollan suggests exploring books and YouTube videos that can help even the most novice home cook get started.

“Really analyze what stands between you and cooking,” Pollan says. “People feel pressed, and their kids are overscheduled. I suggest doing an audit of how you're spending your time.”

Cooking several meals at one time can help. Pollan and his family reserve Sundays for making the bulk of the week's meals. Using a main dish whose leftovers work well in other meals is another time-saver. For example, the remains of a roast chicken can be tacos one night and soup the next.

Prior to the Pittsburgh show, Pollan will curate a VIP farm-to-table reception with five local chefs: Fuller, Kevin Sousa of Union Pig and Chicken, Station Street and Superior Motors; Justin Severino of Cure; Trevett Hooper of Legume; and Brian Pekarcik of Spoon and Grit & Grace.

Pollan says he's encouraged by the number of young people taking an interest in where their food comes from and creating meals based on local food.

“Young people are really charged up about the issue,” he says. “There are really good farm-to-table restaurants in every city I've been to. The chefs are connecting with the farmers, and that means better food.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

Related Content
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.