Is Michael Pollan a sexist pig?

A great piece about blaming feminism for our current food issues, and how romanticizing a false past is bad for food cuture. A bit of it:

“Yes, it’s feminism we have to thank for the spread of fast-food chains and an epidemic of childhood obesity,” sniffs British celebrity cookbook author Rose Prince, who later defends herself by telling me the feminists didn’t intend to ruin cooking.

Comments like this make me—owner of not one but two copies of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”—want to smack Pollan and the rest upside the head with a spatula. Claiming that feminism killed home cooking is not just shaming, it’s wildly inaccurate from a historical standpoint.

As should be obvious to anyone who’s peeked at a cookbook from the late 1940s or early 1950s that promotes ingredients like sliced hot dogs and canned tomato soup, we’ve been eating processed crap since long before feminism. Yet the idea of the feminist abandoning her children to TV dinners while she rushes off to a consciousness-raising group is unshakable.

The rise of convenience food has to do with market forces, not feminism. After World War II, food companies began unloading packaged food products developed for wartime use on the domestic market: frozen fish fillets, powdered coffee, tinned spinach. These foods were aggressively marketed as wholesome and modern, since housewives were initially suspicious of products like ham that came in a can. But lots of women, it turns out, were simply not so fond of cooking. The twentieth century’s two most popular pro-convenience-foods cookbooks, Peg Bracken’s cheeky 1960 “The I Hate to Cook Book,” with its recipes like Skid Road Stroganoff (“Add the flour, salt, paprika, and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink”), and Poppy Cannon’s 1951 “The Can-Opener Cookbook” were hits long before second-wave feminism was so much as a gleam in Betty Friedan’s eye. So why does Betty get blamed?

The food movement, with its insistence on how fun and fulfilling and morally correct cooking is, seems to have trouble imagining why women might not have wanted to spend all their time in front of the stove. Since scratch cooking today is largely a hobby or a personal choice of the middle class, many of us wish we could spend more time in the kitchen. But it’s important to remember that this was not always the case.

It’s easy to forget, in the face of today’s foodie culture, that cooking is not fun when it’s mandatory.

42 comments for “Is Michael Pollan a sexist pig?

  1. gratuitous_violet
    April 30, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Yes. Yes he is. And just one in a long line of lefty dudes who fondly envision a turn back to pre-capitalist material production and yet never seem to imagine themselves as the ones behind the fabric loom or whatever. And I say this as someone with a chicken coop in the city.

  2. Emolee
    April 30, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    The food movement, with its insistence on how fun and fulfilling and morally correct cooking is, seems to have trouble imagining why women might not have wanted to spend all their time in front of the stove.

    This. Even if people were eating less “morally correct” home-cooked food, and more fast food, because of women with careers (and as has been pointed out, this is far from the whole picture), why is that women’s fault? The fault lies with a society that depended tremendously, and still does quite a bit, on women’s unpaid labor, like cooking, as well as that society’s resistance to creating a new egalitarian solution.

    Working mothers may be cooking less, but working fathers are not, in large part, cooking more. Why don’t we blame men for childhood obesity? Because statistically speaking, working men cook much less than working women do. The burden of feeding kids and other people “healthy” food should not fall on the shoulders of women alone, nor come at the expense of women’s ability to have the same choices in life as men.

    This is why I always get upset when people (including Michelle Obama) say that the “obesity crisis” is due in large part to fewer people cooking at home. Leaving aside whether that is true or not for the moment, it is always overlooked that those “people” who spent hours cooking at home were almost exclusively women, who often had no other choice. So, yes, a bunch of unpaid labor will prop up society and make things easier for people- except, of course, for those people being exploited- but that doesn’t make it the right answer.

    • EG
      April 30, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      a bunch of unpaid labor will prop up society and make things easier for people- except, of course, for those people being exploited- but that doesn’t make it the right answer.

      Nicely put.

    • catfood
      May 1, 2013 at 8:38 am

      We could have more “people” cooking at home if “people” didn’t have to work two jobs to pay the damn rent.

      Americans have the least leisure time of any people in the industrialized world. It’s an expensive country to live in and wages haven’t kept up.

      Don’t blame middle class tastes for wanting home cooking. Blame the oligarchy for stealing everyone’s time and energy by jacking up the price of necessities while stunting our paychecks.

      How many people would be able to quit their second job if their first job paid a reasonable wage? And then they’d have options to spend more time sleeping, playing with their kids, goofing off, cooking, or partying.

      (I totally agree with the feminist analysis here too. Both/and.)

  3. karak
    April 30, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    I blame feminism for convincing women that working for free doing something they don’t like for a society that doesn’t appreciate them is a shit deal.

  4. Sheelzebub
    April 30, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    It isn’t just Pollan, either. Barbara Kingsolver sniffed about how women abandoned the kitchen and refused to cook scratch meals, and how what the feminists forgot to tell us is that we’d be doing housework AND working. Hey, Barbara? My working class grandmothers already WERE working and doing the housework back in the 40’s and 50’s, thank you very much. And pre-feminism, they lost their full-time jobs when they got married but were hired back as temps. One of my grandmothers worked as a “temp” (which meant working on every holiday) for the next twenty years.

    But yes, let’s go on and shame women for not being middle-class enough to have the fucking time to do this. And let’s shame women for not liking cooking or working for free. Heaven forbid anyone ever cast any aspersions on the idea that men don’t have to do any housework, and if they so much as take out the garbage they deserve a medal! Heaven forbid we acknowledge that the burden is placed on women, lip service to the contrary notwithstanding.

  5. April 30, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    The valorisation of scratch cooking is an ableist, classist load of shit. Most days, this is my thought process: I can either grab a bunch of frozen mixed veggies and instant noodles and make a full, nutritious meal in >15 minutes, and then get on with my life with minimal and temporary pain, and even be able to do dishes, laundry etc at the end of it. Or, conversely, I can cripple myself for days trying to cut that quantity of vegetables, never mind the torture that noodle making would be for me, since I can’t knead dough to save my life. Fucking infuriating.

    • Alexandra
      April 30, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      Yeah; no kidding. There was an ad playing on TV a while back that showed a woman in her kitchen with a blow-torch “fire roasting” some tomatos, cutting away to the helpful corporate spokesman proferring a canned version of said trendy tomato product. There’s a reason canned goods and other convenience foods catch on; when folks are caught between a consumerist and competitive mindset that we must be eating a particular trendy food item, and yet have no time to prepare that food item, demand is just going to grow for a packaged version of the same.

      Hence why an enormous portion of my diet at this point is made up of microwaveable vegetarian curries from Trader Joe’s or Patak’s or whatever — palatable, feeds me, not as shameful as McDonald’s, and takes exactly two minutes to prepare on my 16 hour days.

    • Willard
      May 1, 2013 at 2:22 am

      Crock-pot, can of soup, some cut of meat (on sale), frozen veggies. Leave on all day while at class/work/bus/bike, add dumplings when I get home, eat, crash.

      My mom and I talked about it and I basically cook like my grandma used to. Y’know, back in the days where Polan seems to think everything was better. I’d like to see him try her cream of mushroom crock-pot chicken. Revisionist asshat.

    • May 1, 2013 at 9:41 am

      I quite agree. This becomes just one more instance of shaming people whose abilities (and desires!) don’t match up with an arbitrary set of standards. Not to mention placing the responsibility for systemic problems (public health, environment) on the shoulders of individuals.
      Me, I love to cook. I patronize my farmer’s market religiously, and the best present EVER, in my opinion, is a wedge of fancy cheese. I’m a PhD student in religious studies and I spend most of my time minutely analyzing everything, so it is nice to have one hobby where I can be much less cerebral, and much more indulgent of (a certain set of) bodily pleasures.
      Here’s the thing: I recognize that my hobby is exactly that–a hobby, and that I’m able to experience it as fun and pleasant in large part because I have various kinds of social, economic, and physical privilege. I am not morally superior because cooking, rather than any number of other things, happens to be what I do to relax, nor should my hobby and the consumer choices that come with it be in any way confused with a systemic solution.

      On which note I especially liked this part of the linked article:

      The expectation that cooking should be fulfilling for everyone is insidious, especially for women. I happen to adore cooking and eating, and nothing is more fun for me than sharing a home-cooked bowl of pasta puttanesca and a loaf of crusty bread with friends. Yet, I know for a fact that others would much rather go kayaking or read magazines or write poems or play World of Warcraft or teach their dog sign language. And, unlike Ruhlman, I don’t suspect them of being less than human.

      And yes, Pollan is a sexist, self-righteous jerk. Frustratingly, it took me until halfway through In Defense of Food to realize this. So much for close reading. Or maybe part of the lesson is, “never underestimate the power, for good or for ill, of a captivatingly-told story.”

      • LearnedFoot
        May 1, 2013 at 11:17 am

        Yes too all of this. And Ruhlman really comes across as a jerk in the article. He and others need to realize that some people just don’t enjoy cooking, and will never enjoy cooking, no matter how much education and social pressure you give them. I wish they would take just a fraction of the energy and self-righteousness they spend trying to guilt everyone into cooking from scratch, and turn it toward advocating for more/better, healthy, affordable prepared foods.

    • Rebecca
      May 3, 2013 at 4:18 am

      Hey, just a heads up- the word cr*pple is a slur against disabled people, so maybe avoid using it in the future?

      • Dawnbreaker
        May 5, 2013 at 9:11 am

        Not in this context, no, it’s not. Here it’s being used as a verb as in “to cripple oneself”. To called a person with disabilities a cripple is seen by some people as insulting when used by able-bodied people because it reduces them to their disabilities. It’s the same as the word retard – if something is retarded (e.g. oxygen flow) it is slowed down, and that’s perfectly OK to use. Very different to calling a person with learning difficulties a retard.

      • (BFing) Sarah
        May 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm

        @Rebecca, macavitykitsune can speak for herself, obviously, and I am not trying to speak for her, but I believe that she was using the word literally, not figuratively. As in: spending that time cooking would make it difficult/impossible for her to walk or move without pain because of a medical condition that she has. Not sure if that makes a difference to you, but I thought I’d point out that she is not using the word in a figurative sense, but to describe the situation if she were to stand on her feet making noodles from scratch and whatnot.

        Sorry for speaking for you, macavitykitsune, hope you are not offended.

      • May 17, 2013 at 10:02 am

        Crap, I didn’t note this post and your reply before, Sarah. Thank you for replying so clearly and fully. ^__^

        Rebecca: actually, I chose that verb very carefully and deliberately. (It’s different from the noun for the reasons Dawnbreaker mentioned.) The pain I could wind up in if I was cooking from scratch daily does, in fact, meet the definition of “crippling” – it leaves me unable to do what I usually can, and considering “what I usually can” isn’t even that much in the grand scheme of things, yes, I call that crippling pain/inability to move. I’m not talking about cutting six kilos of veggies; on a bad day, I literally risk my fingers if I try to cut a carrot. So yeah. I’ve spent years trying to get people – even people in my immediate family, who could see my inability to function – to understand how bad it was, and failing. I apologise if the verb offends you because of its relation to the noun, but I have no other way to effectively and fully convey how I experience my disability.

      • matlun
        May 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm

        I understand that the noun “cripple” can be problematic, but I have never seen anyone have an issue with the verb before.

  6. Kyosuke
    May 1, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Yes is the answer you’re looking for. Guys like Pollan romanticise family cooking as if we should all consider it some sort of therapeutic leisure activity. Cooking! (TM) and not a means to an end for most of us, and certainly not a relaxing, happy time for women pre-feminism. It’s the same crappy misogyny that led to Christmas and Mother’s Day ads for appliances. “Oh, gee, golly, with this Supercookomatic 5000, my time I. The kitchen is ten times the fun!”

    Gag me.

  7. Past my expiration date
    May 1, 2013 at 6:22 am

    But she realized that modern homemaking could be creatively fulfilling in a way she’d never imagined. Unlike previous generations of housewives, who Erika imagines were bored and dissatisfied, Erika says women her age treat the duties of the home as outlets for their creativity. “The fact that I’m not career driven makes some people say, ‘You’re crazy, you’re a lazy sellout,’” she says. “But they don’t realize how much work her DIY lifestyle is.

    I am depressed that somebody would think that the idea of “treat[ing] the duties of the home as outlets for…creativity” is a transformative modern innovation. As I recall, there’s at least one whole chapter in The Feminine Mystique about this — and about how, for lots of women, it didn’t work. That’s WHY they were bored and dissatisfied, for petesake.

    Also, I know for a fact that men can cook. Michael Pollan is a smart guy; you’d think this might have occurred to him. Maybe somebody could put a mirror in his kitchen.

  8. Angie unduplicated
    May 1, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Pollan is, imo, a sexist pig peddling a crock of shit. I am a full- time worker. I keep a salad garden because it’s a convenience food (for the able-bodied). I do a bunch of home canning because it’s cheaper than store-bought, it is healthier and tastes better, and because I despise the grocery industry’s treatment of their female employees. The convenience food industry killed good cooking, not feminism. An excellent argument can be made that feminism revived cooking, since many cooking blogs are woman-created, woman-maintained, and these women earn money from those blogs.

  9. Coraline
    May 1, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Seriously, every time (instant gelatin powder, the ice-box, canned soup, etc) something new has come along that changes the way that things can be done in the kitchen, there has been hand-waving and pearl clutching about how it has ruined cooking and that it is probably the fault of women somehow.

    If you like food and food history, I recommend reading “Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads” for a hilarious and well-written examination of culinary/sociological/cultural trends of the 20th century.

  10. ruviana
    May 1, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I suspect I’ll get flamed for this, maybe. I went and read the article. My sense was that Pollen (and Kingsolver too) were being unfairly described and I still think so. Can this new focus on food unfairly trap women back in the kitchen? Sure, but I don’t think that’s what they said. As one commenter at Salon noted, Pollen was quoting other writers, not making those statements himself. I didn’t recognize the great pressure to COOK LIKE THIS OR ELSE. A lot of the strategies people describe in this thread sound exactly like what some of the “foodie” writers suggest.

    It’s important for the discussion here (and the Salon one, too actually) to recall that there was a strong subgroup in second wave feminism that embraced some of the trends that are being discussed here–whole foods and housewifery. My own teaching and research examine why this work is traditionally undervalued, often by feminists themselves (and I certainly do think I’m a feminist!). Of course the issues aren’t the work, they are the lack of agency, control and choice that force women into the kitchen and men mostly out of it. And yes, I note that this part of feminism had its own problems–most human projects do.

    I also take note of McCavitykitsune’s points–traditionally someone disabled would be cared for in a larger family (which does NOT suggest that this would all be flowers and rainbows of course) or left to fend for themselves. I make a lot of similar meals and believe me–I love the prepped veg because of the time it saves. And obviously that can be of benefit to a wide range of people.

    I guess in the end, I don’t like rejecting out of hand what sounds like it could be an interesting discussion. A few people in the Salon comments accused the writer of using the Pollen hook to get clicks when the article itself was interesting enough.

    • Sheelzebub
      May 1, 2013 at 11:30 am

      Um, actually, Pollan did say this. And Kingsolver was pretty freaking shaming and revisionist in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I actually did read the book and found it elitist, shaming and point-scoring.

      Homemaking is not for everyone. I am fucking sickened and appalled that in 2013, I still have to make the point that it’s okay for women to not like homemaking, that it’s okay for women to want to work outside the home, that men’s participation in cooking and cleaning and homemaking activities should not be parenthetical or mentioned as an afterthought.

      Nowhere do I see these writers exhort men to start picking up the slack (if anything, it’s a parenthetical add-on after a boatload factually incorrect bullshit about feminists running from the kitchen led by the pied piper Betty Friedan). Nowhere do I see them even acknowledge class or ability (unless they want to ‘splain to us plebes how we could really do it if we just tried).

      Men are NOT guilted and shamed for working; women are. These people are playing into that. I am well and truly sick and tired of it. It was this attitude that kept me from wanting to learn anything to do with traditionally “feminine” (ugh) things for years.

    • regeya
      May 17, 2013 at 12:20 am

      Nowhere do I see these writers exhort men to start picking up the slack (if anything, it’s a parenthetical add-on after a boatload factually incorrect bullshit about feminists running from the kitchen led by the pied piper Betty Friedan). Nowhere do I see them even acknowledge class or ability (unless they want to ‘splain to us plebes how we could really do it if we just tried).

      Well, here he says:

      If we’re going to rebuild a culture of cooking,” Pollan says, “it can’t mean returning women to the kitchen. We all need to go back to the kitchen.” He continues:

      “First, we need to bring back home ec, but a gender-neutral home ec. We need public health ad campaigns promoting home cooking as the single best thing you can do for your family’s health and well-being.”

  11. EmbraceYourInnerCrone
    May 1, 2013 at 11:13 am

    I love the classist slant of his attitude, what fantasy of the past is he living in? I guess he isn’t aware that many poor women have always worked outside the home. Apparently he never heard of the textile mills and clothing factories that mostly hired women.

    My maternal grandmother worked in a Corsair plant during WWII alongside my grandfather, her teenagers learned to cook and took care of their younger siblings. My paternal grandmother did a lot of home cooking… for other people. She was a cook/housekeeper for a wealthy family, that’s how she met my grandfather, the chauffeur. She didn’t quit when they got married, she couldn’t afford to. My mother worked all her life except a few years when she was having kids. With 4 kids to feed she loved convenience foods although we did grow a large garden.

    Does he not realize that “fast” food has been around forever? What does he think those street carts in many major (US) cities sold back around 1900 and before?

    A little history about fast/street food:

    Fast Food

    • Alexandra
      May 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm

      Yeah, really. My late grandmother was a marvelous cook, and taught me a lot about the kitchen – but my father was cooking for himself, his father, and his older brother (who is disabled) by the age of 8 because my grandmother worked outside of the home. If by cooking we mean hot dogs and canned beans, or heated up leftovers from the weekend, five days a week.

      One of my favorite possessions is a Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1950s which my grandmother gave to me before she died. The baking instructions are clear, simple, and make delicious, delicious Christmas cookies. But my grandmother didn’t cook like that every day of the year – she didn’t have the time. Because she worked 40 hours a week.

  12. speedbudget
    May 1, 2013 at 11:16 am

    I see this a lot in cooking shows demeaning any kind of convenience food that might help speed the process of cooking, especially with broths and such. Sure, making broth is easy on paper, but who has all those hours together in a bunch to monitor a simmering pot? What is so inherently bad about purchasing a few shelf-stable boxes of decent broth and using that instead?

    And don’t get me started on those “easy” pastes and such. Sure, throwing the stuff in the food processor is easy, but have you ever tried to clean one of those things??

    So even those of us who DO hobby-cook home-cooked meals are shamed that we aren’t doing it right, and it does tend to lead to a lot of guilt on my part, at least, that I’m taking the easy way out.

    • tlfk
      May 3, 2013 at 8:07 am

      Cleaning the food processor is what keeps me away from using it as well;). I’ve been lectured more than once how easy it is to make hummus, but the fact that I have to use a food processor to do it has meant I’ve never tried it (despite having a food processor). That, and I can get perfectly yummy hummus from my local Middle Eastern deli.

      I had heard Pollan on an NPR program earlier in the week, but I was only half listening. I did hear some talk about women and cooking and gender roles, but I really only had one ear on it. I had thought it might be an interesting discussion of gender roles, but in light of what is being said here, I may need to examine that story more closely on-line.

  13. Bagelsan
    May 1, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I prefer the approach of just trying to eat identifiable food, rather than worrying about doing the actual cutting and cooking of it yourself. If you can avoid stuff that has twelve twelve-syllable ingredients, that seems like you’ll miss the unhealthy bits of modernization (bizarre artificial flavors and too many preservatives) without giving up the time-saving bits. I’m all about pre-made broth, frozen vegetables, canned fruit; it’s not any healthier (or more moral) to do that work yourself when the end product is still good food. You can cut down on Twinkie consumption, or what have you, without having to start growing your own wheat to make a home-baked alternative. There’s a healthy middle ground. :p

    • (BFing) Sarah
      May 5, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      Agreed. What is so bad about frozen broccoli? Do I REALLY have to grow, harvest, and cut it myself for it to be “good” for me? Sorry, but if that’s the case I’d rather eat Twinkies. I can’t even imagine having the time to grow stuff in my small, ridden-with-small-veggie-eating-animals, yard…not to mention the fact that just thinking about gardening fills me with anxiety. Not my thing. In fact, cooking in general is something I only do because I have to eat and feed my loud, insistent children. Anything I can do to make that process less time-consuming, without sacrificing too much “health” = a good thing.

  14. Kasabian
    May 1, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    960 “The I Hate to Cook Book,” with its recipes like Skid Road Stroganoff (“Add the flour, salt, paprika, and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink”)


    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
      May 1, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      I just downloaded it to my Kindle because I am lucky enough to have one, but you can find a hardcopy at Powell’s Used book online site for around $7.50 (US). Next I am going to buy her book “I hate to Housekeep”

      I love the cookbooks chapter titles:
      “Company’s Coming- (or your backs against the wall)”

      “The Leftover-(or every family needs a dog)”

      • May 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm

        You are my hero, both for your help in getting me this book and for your awesome username.

    • GracieGrace
      May 1, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      I actually bought a copy of it a year or two ago for my sister, for when she eventually moves out. It’s amazing.

  15. Tim
    May 1, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    As should be obvious to anyone who’s peeked at a cookbook from the late 1940s or early 1950s that promotes ingredients like sliced hot dogs and canned tomato soup …

    I don’t remember quite that far back, but in the 1960s, my mom used to occasionally fix boiled hot dogs for supper. We loved ’em. There would be a few leftovers, and she would chop them into little pieces and mix them with mayonnaise and sweet-pickle relish to make a filling and we would get sandwiches made of that for our school lunches the next day. There may have been another ingredient or two; the exact recipe has been lost to the mists of time. That stuff was fucking great. We made a point of eating fewer of the hot dogs for supper than we were allowed so there would be more for the sandwich filling.

    Also BTW, Peg Bracken was an absolute scream. My mom actually kind of liked to cook, but somebody gave her a copy of Bracken’s I Hate to Cook book and my entire family thought it was hilarious. We all liked cooking pretty well, but the book was still funny; check it out if you can find a copy. Her I Hate to Housekeep book was pretty good, too.

  16. a lawtyer
    May 1, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    As someone who swings to both extremes on the food scale, I agree that the concept of food elitism being “necessary” or even “good” is ridonkulous.

    I am the primary household cook for the family and also a foodie: the idea that it is possible to cook foodie-style on a daily basis is laughable. The only people I know that do so are rich enough not to work, or are also rich and free-timey enough to buy everything prepped. (Yes, I’m sure you can do wonderful things with fresh egg noodles and just-roasted-that-day char sui and some local hand-pruned ultra-organic baby heirloom bok choy, raised from seed in pure Icelandic goat compost. No, I don’t have three hours to go acquire those ingredients right now.)

    Most folks (especially the ones with young kids) are driven primarily by the HOLY JEEZ I JUST GOT BACK HOME AND I MUST FEED CHILDREN IN 30 MINUTES BEFORE THEY TURN INTO RAVING LUNATICS OR ARE FORCED TO SUBSIST ENTIRELY ON GOLDFISH AGAIN; ITS BEEN TWO DAYS OF GOLDFISH ALREADY! mantra, and it’s a hell of a lot better to serve pasta with sauce from a jar and some frozen beans or steamed broccoli, than it is to let the kids fight and starve while you make warm carrot flan topped with edible flowers.

    THis article (the one on Feministe) is good; the linked one is silly.

    And one random tip which I actually didn’t know until about 5 years ago: If you have a decent freezer and a microwave, it turns out that you can freeze rice really well. Who knew? Saves tons of time if you can plan a bit ahead and make extra.

  17. May 2, 2013 at 12:23 am

    I signed up for a nutrition class through my college’s biology department. Biology. I was expecting some serious science, but instead I walked into a class led by a starry-eyed Pollan devotee (In Defense of Food was required reading, and Food Inc. was required watching).

    Normally I enjoy discussing the larger political implications of our personal choices, but I was really irritated to be taking a supposed “science” class that had been completely politicized. It was barely a science class at all — instead we were given simplistic speeches about how “GMOs are freaky” and “organic is the best,” with no scientific evidence given for either claim, and shamed for eating processed food or conventionally grown produce.

    It really made me sad that a bunch of community college students — probably not the wealthiest people endowed with the most free time — were being told that conventionally grown produce was poison and that organic was better even if it cost more. That kind of advice translates into eating less produce, due to the reduced power of the dollar. Finally toward the end of the semester, I just had to go off on a rant about how I thought that Pollan was deeply lacking in any kind of a class consciousness, and that idealizing certain foods and ways of eating seemed kind of arbitrary anyway.

    So yeah. Not only do I agree that Pollan fails on both class and gender, but he fails on science as well. To me, his name has become synonymous with everything I dislike about the food movement, despite agreeing with some of its overarching framework.

    • Alexandra
      May 2, 2013 at 1:42 am

      Heh, I’m taking a less-than-great nutrition class right now, too. Through the kinesiology dept. Prof regurgitates the terrible textbook. Distinction is, this one is anti-organic farming, not pro. She’s a scientist, at least. But not a very good teacher. And the level of science presented in class is weaksauce.

    • Willard
      May 2, 2013 at 2:17 am

      GMOs are freaky

      I’ve gone blue in the face over that kind of thing. It was bad enough having to look out in front of me for creationists and climate change nay-sayers, but now I need eyes in the back of my head for anti-vaxxers and franken-food freaks. Then I found out my sister and her housemates had no idea 1) that their sea salt wasn’t iodized 2) why that was kind of important.

      I’m glad you got a rant in, dropping some science and critical thinking on pedagogues like that can be sooo cathartic.

      • May 3, 2013 at 2:12 am

        It was bad enough having to look out in front of me for creationists and climate change nay-sayers, but now I need eyes in the back of my head for anti-vaxxers and franken-food freaks.

        Hah! Now that made me laugh. Out loud, even!

        Many years back, a book called The Republican War on Science inspired me to bone up on my scientific literacy by taking science classes at the local community college. Now I’m one class away from an associate’s in science (which apparently will be a step up from my BA, at least according to an article I read that said the average salary of someone with an AS is higher than that of someone with a BA). But now, I’m sad to say, the “war on science” seems to be coming from both ends of the political spectrum. It’s very depressing!

        I actually used to get iodized sea salt … And then my local market stopped carrying it. I blame chemophobia … Sort of like how it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to find toothpaste that is both vegan and fluoridated. Why does opting out of livestock system mean I suddenly want tooth decay? Augh!

      • Willard
        May 3, 2013 at 10:32 am


        Well it’s good really, since flouridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.

        Sorry, I had to :D

      • May 3, 2013 at 1:35 pm

        I do not avoid women, Mandrake…but I do deny them my essence.

      • (BFing) Sarah
        May 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm

        LOL! I just really don’t understand how people eat the amount of fruits and veggies recommended AND only eat organic produce. Dude, I’m not a millionaire. My kids will easily eat two cups of fruit a day and probably about that in veggies…HOW, exactly, can I afford that without buying conventionally grown produce? Plus, its not like organic produce in every variety is available everywhere. Add this to the “eat local” bs and I just feel like I’m supposed to be eating grass and tree bark all day to meet my produce requirements. Does eating local mean that I, as a northerner, can never eat a banana, pineapple or a melon unless I am vacationing in the tropics (which, um…no)? Or that my only acceptable fruit options involve canning blueberries and raspberries in the summer and eating canned berry and (local, homemade, obvs) applesauce the rest of the year? Eating local confuses me. Eating organic could bankrupt me. I do my best, but sometimes I feel the need to remind people that pineapples shipped here from other places and grown conventionally still contain nutrients.

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