My friend Janet and I had the privilege of attending a Michael Pollan
lecture last night at Goucher College outside of Baltimore. I had been stalking Pollan’s website for a while hoping he’d be speaking somewhere in my vicinity, and Baltimore was as close as he was going to be, so to Baltimore I went.
Pollan, the best selling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, is an engaging speaker. If the word lecture makes you want to run, rest assured, you would not have run from this lecture. In a casual question/answer format with Goucher’s President Sanford Unger (whom the students call Sandy), Pollan entertained us all at first with a story about his own “horticultural Vietnam,” a war he had with a woodchuck during his early gardening days.
Pollan touched on many subjects — gardening, feed-lot meat, KFC’s new Double Down sandwich, Michelle Obama’s focus on healthy food and how its engaging people in a way that could be momentous, and food education in schools to name a few.
I want to mention specifically one subject he addressed — how college students should eat. Pollan told the students that the decisions they make about food represent a very important vote and that those decisions are expressions of their values. Therefore, students need to be conscious of what they eat and put some thought into their choices.
Here’s what really impressed me. He didn’t tell the students what choices they should make. He suggested they pick one area to be mindful of, and he gave some examples of areas where they could begin to be thoughtful — pesticides used on food, the miles that food travels, or the way the animals they eat have been treated.
He said that if the students do that, if they begin to be thoughtful in just one area, they’d make better choices. Those choices will ultimately benefit them, the land, and the animals.
I love that in Pollan’s lecture he didn’t lecture. He didn’t say, “You must get your food act completely together and eat only local, organic and humanely raised foods all the time.” He advised these students that their choices make a difference, and they have the ability to decide where they want to begin making those differences.
This is good advice not just for college students, but for you, too. If you’re trying to be mindful of the foods you eat, you don’t need to change everything at once. You can start with just one choice like putting aside a small portion of your food budget for organics, buying from the farmers market on a regular basis, or purchasing some humanely raised grass-fed beef.
If you get the opportunity to hear Michael Pollan speak, take it. I came away from his entertaining lecture re-inspired and quite pleased with the way I chose to spend my evening.
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