Michael Pollan long ago lost count of how many times he has been to Seattle on book tours. The Berkeley-dwelling author of Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Food Rules can generally count on a rapturously simpatico audience in a town where “farm to table” is both religious calling and civic norm (no one tosses flowers or undergarments, but Skagit River Ranch owner George Vojkovich often brings him a souvenir box of grass-fed steaks). Pollan’s a heavyweight when it comes to the politics of the food chain, but he promises to deliver some laughs (or at least work hard for them) when he swings through Seattle in May to talk about his new book, Cooked.
You’re on tour for a book about the importance of cooking. So how do you eat when you’re on the road?
That’s the irony of it; eating in airports is one of the great challenges. One of my informal food rules is no meat in airports. If I’m forced to eat in an airport, I usually look for a rice and bean burrito. The pizza is never very good.
Does the airport meat ban include fish?
I don’t know if I’d eat fish in an airport. Maybe in Seattle.
I read that you used to be a TV critic. Is that true?
I wouldn’t say I was a TV critic, but I was an editor and wrote TV criticism at a magazine called Channels of Communication. This was one of my first jobs out of college. I would write these analyses of Miami Vice and Hill Street Blues. It was a very lively time; this was in the early ’80s and TV was changing. It was becoming more writerly.
How do you feel about people using your name as shorthand for a certain movement?
Sometimes it’s used as a synonym for someone who’s wagging their finger at you and that kind of bothers me. I’m not interested in telling people what to do. But in general it does indicate a kind of consciousness about what you’re eating. People are always surprised to see I’m not a jihadi about this stuff. If you get it right a few more times a week than you used to, I think that’s an important step.
You’re so zeitgeisty; is it possible that you haven’t been a character on the Simpsons yet?
No, I have not. Michael Chabon has though; he’s my neighbor.
That’s a hip cul de sac.
We don’t live on the same street. He lives in Berkeley; we’re friends.
An Evening with Michael Pollan
Benaroya Hall, May 13, seattlesymphony.org
Published: May 2013