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Michael Pollan: Conscious Eating

2018-07-09 | 🔗

New York Times best-selling author and food expert Michael Pollan discusses our evolving relationship with food, what it means to eat with a fuller consciousness and how having a heightened awareness of the food that goes into our bodies can improve our physical and spiritual well-being. Michael says that food is an important link to other people, from those we dine with to those who produce what we eat. In light of that connection, Michael says mealtime is an opportunity to express what we believe in and learn about others' values as well. He says his awakening about the deeper meaning of food came about in the garden, a place he says has taught him many life lessons. Michael was named one of Newsweek magazine's Top 10 "New Thought Leaders" and Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World."

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I'm over Winfrey, welcome to supersede conversations the podcast I've leave that one of the most valuable gives you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deep world around us start right now? What world's foremost food exports Michael Pilot, challenges us to really look at the things we so often overlook, like the food on our plates or the plants that surround does a master of unlocking the mysteries of nature. Michael has written seven books, including five, your times by sellers he's. So the name, one of time, magazines, one hundred most influential people in the world, his Two thousand six work. The omnivores dilemma opened our eyes in a whole new way. Michael looked it for me.
And asked one simple question: where exactly does our food come from from elegant simplicity of food rules to the spiritual, of his latest book, cooked stepping into Michael's mine. You want did you feel the same way again? Ok so you're, a journalist or an author Europe, professor and activists, whose you know now the voice when it comes to conscious eating Yeah did you set out for now, as you ever started out as a nature writer air- and I still am- I mean- lose very much about nature and I think if you, if you care a lot about sure and our engagement with the natural world. Sooner or later you gotta take account of agriculture because we effect nature more through our eating choices than anything else we did. Is it true that you're awakening your conscious awakening happened with you in nature or into the garden, and they are different come. I was eight. I had a grandfather who is a wonderful gardener and, and he was in the protests business
and I loved hanging out and harvesting in particular, and we too so magic you'd get these these you know ripe vegetables and fruits. Just came from nothing and em. And so my first book was about gardening. One of this You say: is the guy is an unhappy place for the perfectionists, because too much stands beyond our control here, and the only thing we can certainly count on is a virtual catastrophe, its so a way of looking at life. You know it with a garden as metaphor, while the garden, the garden is a great metaphor, and one of the things it's a metaphor for is the fact you can't control everything and that there are other living beings that you share this place with an unless they, unless you respect what they need, you're, not gonna, get what you want and that's a really important lesson. I mean that it's, it's not. I mean mine now you have now primarily given us the rules to live by for food, which are really quite
simple. I remember when you run the show years ago, yet eat food referred not to buy mostly glance, yes, you know I spent two years. And you get to the bottom of what do we know about the links between diet and health? What what what is nutrition tell us Gatt and the deeper I dug in the more science I looked at. It got simpler and simpler and simpler, and you know the wonder is that we complicate eating so much and that we obsess about good nutrients and bad. And in a week we fill our heads with all his biochemistry. I mean we're else in your life. Do you use terms like and accident in a mega threes in fatty acids and we feel like you must be about him to eat and of course, people have eaten for thousands of years without knowing any of that stuff. Well interested cuz on Super soul Sunday. You know, we talked about all things, spiritual and nothing. Actually more spiritual than the process of eating eating and cooking.
Yeah. Well, you know when we eat we're taking nature were taking the world into our bodies, that's a very profound thing and were changed by what we'd and and we in turn change what were eating. So it's it's our. I think it's our most profound engagement with the natural world happens on our plates facts. That's interesting are most profound engagement with the natural world, Armourplate yeah. Is that what you mean when you say in the book that food is, but a series of relationships, food links us to other people, obviously not just the people we feed, but the people who feed us of the farm workers and the people who cut up the meat in slaughterhouses. We have a relationship with them and we have a relationship with these other species with with the plans to eat with the animals that we and that's why
spin invisible to us because we eat and such a thoughtless way an end. So much of my work has been a rediscovery of those those links. Those connections now envisaged why it's such a spiritual connection, because three times a day, you say which I had never thought of it. This way before either the three times a day. We get to express our values through food yeah, what an opportunity, what a power, because what we choose to eat and what we is not to eat is one of the ways we get to to embody at what we want we care about. I mean for whether you eat animals are not a big big question for people do you wanna eaten away that that supports you know being, our men and clean water and clean air, do or the duke but labour and in the end and the people who feed us and how they are treated- and you have an opportunity to express
that to vote, and in a way we don't in many other parts of our lives. We don't get the kind of Panama and that's a relatively new thing, and yes, I think you, you are the mask bringing this to the forefront of our consciousness, to get us to start thinking about. Where does your food comes from? That was really the essence of the movement was a knight and that's how my work began. I was answering the simple is done this question that I realized nobody knows: where does our food come from this? Is you know something everybody knew a hundred years ago right? You could not write em a best selling book on such an obvious topic a hundred years ago, not even a hundred ivy. I am sign on old enough that I grew up with my grandmother. Honor little tiny little farm and you went out the door you she cultivated it. There was a thing, a thing that we ate, that that she didn't plant and so and reap theirs. Is
not a thing, and that was typical. I mean everyone: either was a farm family or new farm families are went to farms I longed can food. I really did I thought g. Kirby like those rich people who eat you, know the pennies from the jolly green giant. I don't want to just go in a lot of people fled the farm and farm was hard work and interesting life. You also talked about the fact that now live in a world where you go to any a restaurant or you gotta hotel, there's the children's menu there was a time when children ate a real food in the same food that everybody else did. I think the idea of a separate children's cuisine is such a such a bad idea for kids and Parents, it means there are they often get stuck. I mean we fell into this trap with my son. We cook different things for him because he didn't he didn't eat very much. And the idea that yeah kids eat kids food is hamburgers french, fries and pizza and nuggets, and that's the classic children's many all of which are obviously are not very healthy, but
It is certainly a did, drives a line through the dining table. You know eating from the same path, eating the same? Food puts people the same emotional page and if every one of the tables eating something different, you lose a connection. So is your calling do you think Michael to bring Our consciousness to the way we consume food is that Europe? I mean you you put it very eloquently mean that is basically what doing, I'm not telling people had eat. I don't have a prescription for four. Everyone has, as you still email, I do something I mean in a very selective way and not very much of it, but I dont know enough to tell you how to eat and an eye. That would be arrogant. But what I'm asking people is just think about it, be conscious, realize that it's a momentous decision it also an incredibly empowering decision and take advantage of that.
And why is it empowering because you We have this opportunity to support one kind of world or another agriculture to a local farmers. Exactly you make a carbon footprint, whether you want to or not, and- and you can so depending on what you value, whether as the environment or the welfare of animals were farm workers or your health and concerned about pesticides you now have this menu of choices which we have not had as it used to be only thirty years ago, twenty years ago you went to the supermarket, you know was all conventional food. So but now with organic and local and humane, you have opportunities that you never had. So that's very empowering, I think, and we should take advantage of and not feel it's a burden. So you call your recent book? I love it caught and you say that this was the most spiritual give written. What did your time in the kitchen really do for Europe?
yeah. I saw you know. I never thought I'd write a book about cooking. You know I mean I love food and I like to correct, but I never took a very seriously but the more I was working on these food issues and, in my advocacy, work working to reform the food system which, as you know it a high priority mine the more. I realized that so many of our problems owed to the collapse of cooking that home cooking is not happening. The way you do, we always been twenty seven minutes a day on average cooking four minutes cleaning up were letting corporations cook our food, and that is at the heart of many of the problems we face. The obesity epidemic. The epidemic of type, two diabetes. These things are the result of letting industry cook for us, costly dont could very well these way too much saw fat and ship and they engineer the food to get us deed too much of it. That's how they make more
the more they can get you to eat there, not interested in your satisfaction at the table, their interest in your cravings. There are very good at engineering us, So I realize if we that's, why you eat things and can't stop it's been engineered yet making oh yeah, they not a pressure buttons. There they go to and the way to making a start. It's a combination of sugar, salt and fat, and when you layer, those together should result in fat irresistible. The potato chip is the great example, and I have a weakness for potato, as we all know has do I, and so I realized you know we have to look at this cooking peace. We're not gonna fix these problems if people are fleeing the kitchen, and so that's what got me started that it was not my intent to write a book with any spiritual dimension at all I was very surprised to find myself in that place, because the meal is a kind of commission I mean the meal is a place where we take the world.
The body of the world, into our bodies, where we engage with these other creatures and most importantly of all, were engaged with one another Emmy think about what happens at table You know whether were eating with friends or with enemies. The kinds of conversations that happen eminence the heart of our social life I am giving it up for. Is there any practice, less selfish, any labour, less alienated any time less waste? then preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love? So let's begin at the beginning with fire that yeah well, that you know Really love is that at the heart of it really is an expression of eleven and if you think, back to your grandparents how, of their love was expressed to you through what they may view and that that gift and there's a gift and any act of cooking, as is a given
Now- and I love to did you experienced, you said you know you ve never been as income a guy, but when you're cooking in the kitchen, when you're stirring the pot just stir the pie right. You know we we spend so much of our time, living in the future, worrying and living in the past worrying about we might have done wrong and the present is inaccessible to us most of the time and in the kitchen, and reclaim the present. If you really tender. What you're doing and for me it was chopping onions. I hated chubby in his. I rushed it and you know somebody did has begun in the chair Daniel. It's amazing and when I learned to say to myself,
this little mantra when shopping, onions, just chop, onions, dont, think about anything else. Let yourself enjoy it and it's not pleasant. Always right is painful, but even chopping onions. You can absorb yourself in and around the world slips away and it's it's a great feeling but were rushed. You know we're so rushed in the kitchen and I think that sense of panic about time is part of what's driven us from the kitchen, so the experience of writing. Cooked and cooking. Did what for you it made me realize the meals? Sir? Are you no sacred occasions? and that we should take the more seriously and you know, but we are, as animals are creatures or people who find meaning M M, especially find meaning in their food, were giving that up reading of the gas asian were you know, were eating on the run were eating the fast food restaurant. You know by ourselves solely by forty six percent, a meal,
so they were beaten alone in America were giving up. The social component were giving up. The the connection with nature component so. What I realized is that, just what a rich opportunity? it's available to all of us. You know this is we all can get back to meals to eating with other people, and so many good things were far from that I mean for your health. If your cooking food. You don't have to count calories, you don't have to worry reading radiant labels because you'll know you're eating and as a matter of course, people who eat home cooked food either healthy diet to slaughter research. On this reason, as you would never put his money salt in your food as a company would you would never put as much sugar and that food and you wouldn't
or make those labour intensive, but irresistible foods like french fries, everyday, yes, and so, if your cooking you're not gonna, make all those labour intensive foods, you're not gonna, make dessert every night. Dessert baking is hard. You can do that once a week, man and so there's something built into the nature of cooking that will take care of your health. What does it take them to become a more anxious eater. Well, one thing that is not that easy, I'm nervous dilemma rate is it is worthwhile, I'm one thing that is actually not necessary, but very helpful is cooking, because when you cook your force, remember that you're working with plants and animals and mushrooms that this is this stuff nature. You put your hands on when you handle a cut of meat in a port shoulder something which I love you realize you know this is the muscle of an animal and it has a purpose. Apart,
Feeding me and you realize I don't wanna ways. This is this. You know something gave up its life for me. Yes, in the you speak about that so eloquently and cooked about there was it I'm win the hunters and gatherers beginning with the hunters and gatherers where you have a piece of meat. There was an honouring of the sacrifices that animal had given For you, and now we just sort of do it mindlessly its, and you know that was one of the more interesting discoveries I had when I was doing this research is that in both the ancient greek tradition and the old testament tradition you didn't, eat me without a priest involved or rabbi and in ancient Greece, the the priest, the butcher and the cook were the same person? really yeah, and it was a was a momentous because meat was very special. It was rare, involve sacrifice, and so you didn't you didn't do it lightly and in fact and also loud mess around with the priests had to be involved.
And now you know we ve come to a place where meat is very cheap. Many Americans, you three times a day without giving a thought to it, but the system that can produce meat that cheaply is the opposite of sacred away. Animals are treated yeah, the brutalization animals, the brutalization of the slaughterhouse workers, it's a system that takes any sense of meaning of eating me away. You think, then, when we eat and animal who has been treated thusly or comes from a factory where people are treated thusly, that the energy of that somehow is trimmed transmitted to us. I don't know it's. It's bad karma has to be bad com, you can taste the misery of animals in this very scientific sense. When animals are stressed at slaughter which many them on their release, all sorts of stress hormones.
And that is why that meet often doesn't disfigured. So an animal. That's very well taken care of we'll taste better. So there is a realistic sense and we You can take that misery. Have you thought of not? Did you ever consider being a vegetarian? Absolutely, and in fact I was running omnivores dilemma. I was really grappling with this issue of. Do we have a right to eat, animals is defensible and I'd read Peter singer, the great emphasis to wrote a book call them. Animal liberation and anyone who reads meet needs to grapple with the ideas in this book is a very challenging but- and he sat at some point, while you're thinking through this question for yourself, you should not eating meat during that period. So I gave it up for about six weeks and I finally came out in favour of eating meat in a very limited way, and I do think everyone at some point in their lives should see what is involved in putting me on their table.
I even think- and this sound a little extreme, that you know high school. You know there should be a field trip, were people get to kill a chicken if they want want to eat meat and sea. Can you look in the eyes of the chicken and and still Edith I found I could and There's no one right answer. I think it's it's it's a it's a determination we all have to come to, but but we're not even ask to go through that thought, process anymore and an that's yeah from trend. Do anything my work, it's too if people in that process, you're trying to at least allow people to be conscious of what it is and where looks at this day yet what's estate once it's good
you saying, look at the slaughterhouses look at how near food gets your table, whether its vegetables or meat animals fish and then make a choice about exactly there's. No there's. No one right answer to these questions are too complicated, which your favorite meal, Michael Poland, have a lot of favorite meals, one of my favorite meals and it changes to time is: rose chicken with route vegetables and it's very simple thing to make an often make it for guests and if I can get a pastor chicken when it drew up outside Gotti bugs and grass is the best tasting chickens and their more common. And essentially you make a better view. Cut up carrots parsnips, turnips anything really big as any kind of fruit vegetables and make a bed for the chicken and potatoes and said
chicken on their turn up the crank up the oven to four hundred Greece and rested for forty five minutes to one pot meal really simple, and then you have left overs do so. I love that meal. That's really great! I mean I really like fish salmon is another favor another friend day is a day when my wife and I are are making a dinner party for friends. I mean I really like that. You know starts in the morning list of what you need to buy going to the farmers market or the supermarket wherever going, and then we spend the afternoon cooking together, as we see Down and have our evening meal, whether you sitting with someone or they're just passing through what you want us to think about when we sit before the next meal. About the wonder of what it is whatever you're eating. That you know if its meat that this animal lived and died, and think about who grew that that broccoli or that salad and in the
place. Where I grew. Imagine imagine that growing in the earth and just take a moment. I mean it's a way of saying grace whether you voice it or not. Grace's is the institutional has a of conscious eating, and although a lot of us all that's good grace is the institutional say it is when you stop- and you have a moment to say thank you. We knew all this we ve known, always in our time it it's the institutions, the institutionalization of conscious eating, stopping to make yourself aware of what this moment it s this transaction, and you know we knew we were. We ve, had a great forgetting in our culture. Very recent? We can get back, we can. We can remember and that's where I think that's what the food movement is about and all this conversation about food- it is
remembering this value. The importance the power of this relationship with our food and and I M very excited see it catching on, and I am full of hope about where going with you yeah. Ok, so when you writing, do you read other people? You know they rafting. I'm Unama journalist has been a lot of time researching before I get to right guy months of but went on actually drafting and I dont want to taking any new information. I read it and one of the reasons I read Them- is that the rhythms of prose and in general novelists are better riders than non fiction writers. In general, I mean, I think, that there are exceptions on both sides definitely said from the most but unique kind of good rhythms in your head to write well
running about music, it really is and signing the music of ascends the rhythms of it. The different him. If you read two sentences- and one you would just kind of feel- is beautiful. It's because the the rhythms of it conforms to the rhythms of the breath. And the body and you don't always get it right. But so I pray I pray my mind with good good fiction and that's where I find the next. I watch videos cook an oyster, a process that involves choosing a single, perfect ember and placing it beneath the plump dove, gray or the pair a boar zepps. Just so yeah Ravens is rhythmic. It is rhythmic, I never heard that before, and I've interviewed hundreds more than ever her always are all about basic prose is all about music, just they poetry. That's why?
feels that way and that's why you know the good stuff: that's why we are reading a novel or reading carried along. You carry Why is that Why, and you can tell to me, we don't do this. Nearly often enough we should all be reading, allow out that's exactly that's what happened in the last novel, actually that I chose for Book Club, Ruby, so amazed at some of the sentences were so beautiful. I had to read them out, allowing that's how I teach my students. I teach writing and whenever someone's having trouble and their work is clunky or sentences are too long. I make them, read it aloud at great, that's great, to know that at least to be able to articulate that's what it is all. But you know what I mean, I'm sure you know it and where, in the way you pick books its reflected it's a lot of this goes on the level of consciousness, but answer yes. Yes, recalling tiny, Morrison and telling her about having to read things over and we'd all over her process. Amazing amazing is she's. Gotta she's got it now you and I both loved
is what is planning a tree attending a garden really say about a person A tree planting it is, is an incredibly optimistic act. It's it's a statement about the future that you're looking ahead, I mean so few of us do anything beyond you know in business. The next quarter in law I've seen of getting through our day are weak to plant a tree is a is an act of faith in the future and it has always been thus- and dont plant, nearly enough trees, remember being in France a few years ago, and I was in a garden shop, and I was the proceeds when I go to other countries, Ellie yeah their interesting place that we don't have and, yes, you are allowed to bring seeds. I was going Can you bring them back? You can see that we can bring these bacteria tat does not fruits and vegetables, and there, in the store, were seeds for trees, seeds, seeds for a beech tree
seeds, for you now really a redwood ass if there is an act of faith to plan a seed, a tree from a seat, I heard that you, built a little hut in the woods near your house built here to have yeah, there's a place today dream and right, and in disguise, from an off and its place means the world me yeah and so important? Do you think I have that over there? I call it my tea house, but also other. How important do you think? Is it to have a place of contemplation? If you can, I mean most people don't have had in the word tea houses, but you could just once Something like that. You can have that in a house with other people. You can have that in a little patch of your ear yard. Where you go, I remember when I was a little kid. We lived in a tract household Alan, and there was this line of rum of shrubs for severe something, and then there was a little space after that line of shrubs were no one could see me and I could go and hang out and.
In fact planted my first crop spit out of watermelons hidden and dug it in, and it actually group as four years old and well- and that was my heart and soul. Kids- can make a hut in the in the you know in the arch of shrub? I think we all knew that place it. It becomes a physical expression of solitude. What's a perfect day for you, marry spend your days or perfidious outdoors. For me, a day. You know where I'm hiking there began with a really good picnic in ours. May I made in my Can I have a ritual on our birth as whatever day of the week it is whatever else going. I will take. It often do just that and look up. I get it. I think I can a picnic and watching your picnic basket. Well, it's often leftovers what we had, but it would be very happy with like bread and cheese in a really good bag.
Or a loaf of bread. I bay, as you just described, that I think that I'm gonna do that. Maybe I'll do that, would Stedman for the dog Go to the Netflix movie very happy that you're happy with whole grain bread with a great cheese. I don't know about the stinky stinky ones, but a great cheese and someone. I consider that one of the great face it a meter and that's all, I need to be happy. What do you think is the world's greatest wound, I guess I'd have to say human cruelty. I would I guess I would agree with that. I don't think it's gonna think he'll get no debate for me and what do we have to do to heal that? How do we start to heal? That? I think empathy cruelty is, but in a fit of failure of empathy, the the inability to see things from the perspective of the person, you're you're being cruelty,
we put up a lotta screens. You know summer racial summer, ethnic summer, gender. That allow us to be cruel to people, because we we dehumanizing so so. That's why artist so important artists are exercises. Are our empathetic faculties, so yeah speaking a racial. What do you think is the root of racism or prejudice. I think greed I mean, I think when you look at the history of That's a very important part of it that you needed to you needed to call the fate racism in order to justify slavery, and I think we see that sexism too, as you know, is often you know it's about. One one type of person exerting power over another, but I really think red is at the heart of it. So well, in this polar world darkness in light how'd, he foresaw How do you stay in the light? Curiosity
you know, I'm a journalist. I am motivated by questions a more interesting questions and answers, is a great when you find them, but its questions that driving forward and a lot of us don't. I You can cultivate your sensory curiosity, whenever you are in a situation, think think about what what don't you know, what are the mysteries right in front of you and and follow them, So for me right as knowledge, you know. Why does the noise you come from from learning about things? Where is the quality you admire most in other human beings? Empathy radical him rather, I know you'd people who can really put themselves in the shoes of another. Because of its it takes work. There's a lot working against empathy. We have our own problems with so many screens between us and other people our egos. Are you
I mean yeah, the self I mean just transcending the south as such. It is such a hard and big job, and you need to do that in be a civilised human being and, and many of us are not civilised, and it goes back to empathy when I meet someone who has that quality, whether their inactive or a novelist or a filmmaker who really? can see the world from its very different heresies. I have great admiration for. Why do you think we're all here? What the purpose of this here experience? I don't know that it has a purpose. We it's up to us to find a purpose were not given a purpose we make meaning I mean and that's a huge responsibility. We have to figure out our purpose. You know, I think preserving this world fur for people in the future. I think that's really important and other species and we were asking all about right now, so getting people to
rethink their relationship to the natural world and he went away the term that is, we have a relationship to the net for world. Where does that put us who were internet world, but we also stand outside and so resolving those questions how to behave in nature that drives all my work in the I mean I think, every writer, if you, if you scratch deeply enough, you will find that they have a set of final. Questions that all their work goes to and for some people, its power money can we love it can be in any number of big topics? My final questions are all about nature finish the sentence. I believe I believe in Possibility of change. I'm not discouraged person. I look at some pretty off things in my work, whether it's the way we abuse farm workers are or are animals or other people,
and an end. I study the environmental prospects before us. Whether it's a matter of knowledge or temperament, I'm very hopeful I've seen change happen in our lifetimes. That suggests that were not powerless to to change direction. So That's what gets me up at a better Ramona is that you know we're going in the right direction. Do you have a favorite quote? Well, there's a quota, the end of food rules that I really like? This is my kind of distillation of of food wisdom I've. Given you all these rules for eating and I don't need anything, don't don't buy. Cereals are changed, color. The milk stuff like that is alive and and
damn all things in moderation. This is from Oscar Wilde, all things and moderation, including moderation. Sometimes you have to cut loose. I love that I love I mean breaking. The rules is part of having rules. That's the best island islander. That's perfect! Haiti packing
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-01.