Five Takeaways From a Conversation Between Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry

Kentucky farmer and writer Wendell Berry interviewed food journalist Michael Pollan last night in Louisville. (Pollan stopped by the WFPL studios earlier in the day for an interview as well). Over the course of the evening, they discussed Pollan’s new book “Cooked” and the bigger issues it raises. Here are five takeaways from the interview:

  1. Wendell Berry has no desire to cook…except maybe hoecakes. “I’m also a good test because I don’t have the least intention of learning to cook beyond the crudest kind of frying,” he said. “My expertise in the kitchen runs entirely to grease.”
  2. There are interesting links between the discovery of fire, Sigmund Freud, and urination. “Freud had this interesting theory about the discovery of fire, which really involved, as everything did in his theory, repression,” Pollan said. “And that it was not until men could repress the urge to extinguish any fire they ran into with the stream of their urine that we could really get started.”
  3. Both Berry and Pollan see a connection between cheap energy and the decline of cooking and home gardening. “We can’t imagine another way of living, because we’re so dependent on what you’ve called the ‘cheap energy mind,’ and the fact of cheap energy and the idea that we might have to do more for ourselves is scary when you can do so little for yourself,” Pollan said.
  4. White flour relies on ‘industrial logic’ which doesn’t make very much sense. Millers began taking out the bran and germ from the grain, which is the most nutritious part. “And we fixed the problem, as capitalism always does, not by going back and dealing with the systemic issue here, which was to say ‘oh, we should put some of that bran and germ back in.’ That would have been easy,” Pollan said. “No, we put a Band-Aid on it. We began fortifying flour. Wonder Bread was the product of something called the ‘quiet miracle’ that the government worked out with the bakers to put some vitamins back in and fix the problem that had been created.”
  5. Mothers’ breastmilk is considered the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of food, because contains oligosaccharides that a baby can’t digest. So, what’s the point? They’re there to feed microbes in the baby’s large intestine. “We’re only 10 percent human, and 90 percent microbes,” Pollan said.

Listen to the whole interview here:

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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