Tag Archives: Pollan

What [else] I Learned From Michael Pollan

Just when I start to think college is dumb and an overly-stressful waste of time (see post below), something cool usually happens and I change my mind.

Yesterday, as part of the Go Big Read program on campus, which brought in the book In Defense of Food this year, author Michael Pollan came to speak. College is cool.

While I have thoroughly enjoyed the two of his books that I have read (and hope to read more), I enjoyed listening to him and asking him questions almost as much. As Bill Cronon said in his introduction, Pollan is an, “able translator of complicated ideas,” and because of this, I have come to respect and admire his ability to do good and motivate change through his writing.

DSCN0759_2In his talk last night at the Kohl Center, he outlined a few main points of his book. He reintroduced the idea of the American Paradox – that we’re so concerned about our weight (more so than in many other countries), and yet we have the highest rates of obesity, heart problems and diabetes. In fact, since 1980 Americans have become 17 pounds heavier on average… as a result of our low-fat focused culture? He proposed that in order to change this paradox, we need to alter our whole ideology on food, and start eating food instead of the processed food-like substances that we see in our convenience and grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and sadly, on our shelves.

He gave an overview of how reductionist nutritional science is so difficult to study in humans, mentioned other aspects of our faulty research systems in food, how other cultures eat (e.g. stopping when they feel 80% full), and gave examples of our flawed system of seeing nutrients as either ‘satanic’ or ‘good’ (The idea that when we eat, we feel we are doing one of two things: ruining our health, or, improving our health). This was all very interesting and I highly recommend picking up his book to learn more.

What I was most interested in though, were his views of what better eating can do for our land and communities. His idea that our physical health is as much linked to the health of the soil, environment, economy, animal, and plant as it is to our actual bodies is so refreshing. If we all considered how we eat, where we shop, and how we prepare food to matter just as much as what we actually eat, we would be able to truly understand the idea of a Food Chain and would face many benefits to our lifestyles. When time and money were brought up as a critique, he said it was interesting because with as much as we complain about not having time to cook, the ratings on Food Network cooking shows are still so high. And though we can’t afford more expensive foods, we can afford to pay for our televisions, phones, and water; all of which are commodities that are also readily available for free. So, it is a matter of prioritizing and deciding not to skimp on our health in order to save time or money, and bringing back the idea of eating for pleasure, community, and identity, instead of just for nutrition or necessity.

This morning, I had a chance to meet with Pollan in a smaller setting to ask him questions. While my peers asked clarifying questions on his food talk, I asked him about his career as a writer, his education, and his process of writing on scientific issues as someone who is educated in English, not science. I am thrilled about what he said and am more encouraged to practice and improve my writing and establish my own expertise as a result.

Anyway, I have lots to do today and need to get going, but it was such a good experience to hear from him and I’m excited for what’s to come with this space and my career as a result!


The crowd giving a standing ovation after his speech.

The crowd giving a standing ovation after his speech.

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Don’t let studying get in the way of your education

This is what Cal DeWitt tells us.

I like this theory, but I’m not sure how to accomplish it when I have this calling my name:

My reading for one semester (not including online readings and handouts)

My reading for one semester.

(And that stack doesn’t include online readings and handouts. Whatever.)

Anyway, this weekend I have a LOT of exciting stuff going on that I’m going to try to accomplish and enjoy despite the hundreds of pages of reading that are calling my name!

Some events include:

-Listening to Michael Pollan’s talk TONIGHT at the Kohl Center on campus

-Creating a spending budget for the rest of the school year

-Applying for jobs/researching online freelance gigs.

-Attending a Michael Pollan meet and greet tomorrow morning for Environmental Studies students. (Pictures to come)

-Training for the race!

-Grocery shopping at the Farmers’ Market

-Making 2 Strawberry pies for a potluck on Wednesday

-Researching jobs/Peace Corps/Other cool things I could do next year  and how to pay for them

-Volunteering at the Food for Thought Festival


-Have fun/see my friends/relax? (Maybe?)

-Blog about it all!

Wish me luck.

Off to Pollan’s talk now!

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Madison, Wisconsin


So, my boyfriend tells me that I need to keep blogging to make something of this space.

While I love writing, I live in constant fear of boring my readers! But I suppose I’ll give more of a daily life take on my blog for a while and see how it goes. But seriously, ANY feedback would be helpful. I really want to make this space an outlet for good writing, worthwhile ideas, funny stories and sharing of opinions. But I guess that’s tough to do with no new posts! Anyway, and ideas would be great.


As the title suggests, I am now moved into Madison for my LAST year of college. I’m torn between being really excited of all the things I’m about to learn this year and also being incredibly over this town and wanting to move onto bigger and better things and more hands-on learning. One day at a time I guess.

Here’s some stuff that’s goin on:

1. I’m taking a really cool class called Food, Culture and Society. It examines “the social relations surrounding the production, distribution, preparation, and consumption of food.” As you can imagine, this class addresses many of my current interests and I feel honored to learn and contribute. On Wednesdays the class gathers to prepare and eat a meal together. It’s just great. I’m excited to share what I learn with you! We’re currently reading Pollan’s “In Defense of Food” in time for him to visit Madison later this month!

I really admire him. I actually wish I was him. What a cool job!

2. I’m also going to be learning a lot more about the scientific aspects of climate change and ecology. This information and these classes are currently quite over my head, but I think translating them into English to be able to post here might be good for me. Currently the processes of oxidation in soil profiles and the presence of infrared rays in layers of the atmosphere are a bit over my head. One day at a time Jenny, one day at a time.

3. Even though I don’t know how I’ll find time, I’m trying to muster up my courage to go into the office for one of Madison’s two student newspapers, The Badger Herald, to apply to write for them. I feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing this on top of trying to succeed (and more importantly, learn) this year while having a life outside of school (read: blogging!). But, I know having published clips will help in job searching next year and I would like to dust off my journalistic abilities. I’m making myself do it THIS WEEK.

There, now I have to.

4. I’ve committed myself to buying local foods since being inIMG_0728 Madison and have reaped the benefits of WONDERFUL Wisconsin cheeses, tomatoes (red, yellow, cherry, grape, striped, green… you never know what you’re gonna get), cucumbers, zucchini-galore, onions, potatoes, fresh jams, artisan breads, spinach, YOU NAME IT! Madison has such an amazing local foods culture that I never knew existed. What a pleasant surprise! I’m excited to make my mom’s veggie-enchilada recipe with all seasonal veggies (to freeze for the dreary winter months) hopefully tomorrow in addition to gathering the ingredients to make a few types of pesto to share with the food class on Wednesday. Yum.

In efforts to stay healthy to get through this year and accomplish all that I want to, I think spending a few extra dollars on these foods are worth it. Hopefully I won’t be biting my tongue in January when I run out of money (don’t worry, I’m applying for jobs)!IMG_0709

5. Socially, I’ve had a blast catching up with old friends, reminiscing about the good memories of my trips to Scottsdale, AZ, the Colorado Rockies and New Orleans, and sitting on the dock in Madison “doing homework” (see left). And, I’m looking forward to a trip to DC next weekend!

6. I’m kicking around the idea of doing the Peace Corps next year or sometime soon. Any thoughts on this?

Ok well, I should go for now. I’m trying to get all my work done tonight so I can enjoy the day on my roommate’s family’s boat tomorrow and soak up the sun while I still can.

Hope you are all well!


PS oh, also. I finally have my own apartment (meaning finally settling in after attending 4 schools!) and I love my roomies 🙂

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