Oh, dear Michael Pollan. You got schooled–and on National Public Radio no less. I am so sorry. You must realize that nutritionists and comedians are not a good mix–even if you are really just a journalist. You should have known better. I hope you will be more careful the next time.
Here’s where I was when this public humiliation happened. In my kitchen concentrating fiercely on grout. Yes, grout. For the past few months, I have been held hostage by a kitchen renovation project. My release was imminent, but not until I finished grouting the backsplash tile. My contractor guy left me home alone equipped with a grout float, a grout sponge, a bucket and a milk carton-like container of powder with indecipherable directions.
Normally, my husband provides me a task and temperament appropriate playlist of music before I undertake such projects–but not then. I just turned the radio on to find the weekly broadcast of the NPR game show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I hear it occasionally, but I am not a regular listener. Just as I was trying to decide if I could really grout and listen to an inane game show at the same time, they announced the guest of the day–food and food economics guru, proponent of the sustainable food movement, and my blog name inspiration—even though he won’t admit that we are from the same once big potato farm–Michael Pollan. I now had no choice but to turn up the radio and begin mixing the grout powder with water.
The host touted Pollan’s accomplishments, listed The Omnivore’s Dilemma as one of his landmark works and asked him to describe some of the basic tenets of his nutritional philosophy. That is where the pounding began by none other than Paula Poundstone. Ouch. It pains me to recall the situation.
All serious like, Pollan started out by saying we need to distinguish between food and edible food-like substances. Right off, Ms. Poundstone managed to get her mouth in. She announced to Mr. Pollan, that Ring Dings are one of her reasons for living. Were they not considered food? She informed him that they only have three ingredients–devil’s food cake, a creamy filling, and a rich chocolate outer coating. Pollan pathetically informed her that the creamy filling is not real cream. She retorted that it is C-R-E-M-E-Y and asked him, “What the hell’s the matter with you?”
Pollan stammered and began to comfort her that it is ok to have such a treat once in a while. She interrupted to remind him that she said they constituted a role in her reason for living and asked if he was suggesting that she save it for one day a year. Meekly, he said that he would not want to deprive her of that. This “Battle in Berkeley” as the show was called, taped in Pollan’s adopted hometown, was now calling for my attention at the risk of hardening my grout mixture. Poundstone, now ready to fully devour her prey, attacked with, “You may know a lot about food, but you don’t know the first thing about living, buddy.”
The host intercepted, trying to save his guest, and asked Pollan another question. This led Pollan to tell a little story about shopping at ‘The Berkeley Bowl’. The local crowd went crazy at the mention of this Berkeley food oasis. For the wide radio audience, he had to describe the large grocery store as full of all sorts of wonderful produce, grass raised beef, etc. He jabbed at Poundstone, that the store would be like her idea of hell, but the comment fell flat and got no response. The indignity finally ended only after Pollan was made to answer three questions about electronic Japanese Supertoilets. Forget the backsplash. At this, I felt the sclerosis of my own inner being.
This may have all been in the name of fun and games, but to us real nutritional professionals, this is the substance of what we do. The Paula Poundstones of the world are who fill the cracks and crevices of the story behind the dogma–though most are not nearly as funny. Right now, I am considering using a photo of Ring Dings as the graphic for my post. But, I know that mere visual suggestions of such foods, cue unhealthy feeding behaviors. I’d prefer not to feed into that so to speak. But, I will be torn. I am sure they will be more colorful and enticing than any stock photo I may find of Mr. Pollan.
If Ms. Poundstone was my client, we might explore such issues as food addiction; what role food is playing in her life; comfort eating; insulin resistance, effects of sugar, menopausal weight gain, food sensitivities, the seduction of chocolate and motivation for dietary change. Inside, I’d be grappling with the question of what do I know about living and the sacrifice of putting down the beloved Ring Ding and stepping away.
These are the things I muse about daily. The crossroads of food, health, the environment, and pleasure. I am an adherent to the pathways that Mr. Pollan promotes as essential for increased sustainability and to rescue our birthright of health. I am grateful for how his writings have advanced this work. However, I hope he has gleaned that it is one thing to write about this stuff, another to work it in the wild. Throughout my career, I have often joked that after a long day at the office, I am grateful to go out to the parking lot and find that there is still air in my tires. That I have not pissed off the Ms. Poundstones, in my role as the messenger and that I have still maintained my sense of humor in this work.
Well, by now, the renovation is done. Fortunately, I have now added grouting and caulking to my resume. By my professional assessment, I think there will always be work to do in the proverbial kitchen.
In health, Elyn
The closest I come to comedians is that I keep an article/photo about Drew Carey’s transformational weight loss on the bulletin board in my office. With that, I can trust that he can be solely a source of inspiration rather than nervous perspiration.