In all the complex contemporary debates around food, Michael Pollan’s advice is as simple as it is revolutionary: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants’. In his bestselling calls-to-arms, In Defence of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he applies his omnivorous mind to the politics and pleasures of eating.
Real food – the kind of food your great-grandmother would recognise as food – is being undermined by science on one side and the food industry on the other, both of which want us to focus on nutrients, good and bad, rather than actual plants, animals and fungi.
The rise of ‘nutritionism’ has vastly complicated the lives of western eaters without doing anything for our health, except possibly to make it worse. Nutritionism arose to deal with a genuine problem – the fact that the modern western diet is responsible for an epidemic of chronic diseases, from obesity and Type II diabetes to heart disease and many cancers – but it has obscured the real roots of that problem and stood in the way of a solution.
That solution involves putting the focus back on foods and food chains, for it turns out our personal health cannot be divorced from the health of the soil, plants, and animals that make up the food chains in which we take part.
In his talk, Michael Pollan will explore what the industrialisation of food and agriculture has meant for our health and happiness as eaters, and look at the growing movement to renovate the food system.
Presented in partnership with Sydney Opera House.
Michael Pollan is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. A 2006 New York Times book review describes him as a “liberal foodie intellectual.”