Forgive me for getting even further behind on the book club that was my idea in the first place. It’s just that I had a dream that Michael Pollan e-mailed me about these posts, and it really freaked me out. The Internet has not proven itself skilled at keeping secrets thus far. But, I mean, please. Like Michael Pollan doesn’t have anything better to do than read food blogs? Here I go confusing fantasy with reality again. My mistake. So, let’s get back down to business.
In Chapter 5, Pollan surprised me by debunking the notion that all processed foods are bad:
“The dream of liberating food from nature is as old as eating. People began processing food to keep nature from taking it back: What is spoilage, after all, if not nature, operating through her proxy microorganisms, repossessing our hard-won lunch? So we learned to salt and dry and cure and pickle in the first age of food processing, and to can, freeze, and vacuum-pack in the second. These technologies were blessings, freeing people from nature’s cycles of abundance and scarcity, as well as the tyranny of the calendar or locale. …As Massimo Montanari, an Italian food historian, points out, the fresh, local, and seasonal food we prize today was for most of human history “a form of slavery,” since it left us utterly at the mercy of the local vicissitudes of nature.”
I don’t know if you know this or not, but the Italians have a penchant for melodrama. Fresh, local food is slavery? Really? Well, tie me up.
Okay, fine. Maybe there is a tiny grain of truth to it. If you’re restricted to a purely local diet and things don’t go your way, nature-wise, you could starve. And, yeah, my relatives did flee their tiny farming village in Italy for a better life in the Land of Plenty, where plenty is defined as lots and lots of stuff you don’t need, and not nearly enough of what you do. I’ve heard farming isn’t the sinecure we all dream of. And maybe it’s not a bad idea to have some reliable backup sources of sustenance and food pathways that make sense.
But still. To be constrained by the limits of the natural world is slavery? I never thought about it that way. But now that you mention it, I really hate gravity. Why, imagine how much better life would be if we weren’t tethered to the earth by invisible bungee cords. And now that I really, really think about it, nature screwed me over big time when it saddled me with the female reproductive system. After all, if nature had its way, I would have been knocked up 11 times to my 2 by now, and then where would I be? Someplace not unlike my idea of hell, that’s where. (Shut up, ovaries, you’re not getting your way on this one.)
I’m not really sure what my point is here, but Michael Pollan is coming through loud and clear. Since we’ve been slaves to nature since the beginning of human history, it’s time we got nature back. Reparations, baby! He’s just given us a free pass to stick it to nature any way we can, on behalf of our ancestors, on behalf of ourselves. Pollution. Deforestation. You name it. Nature isn’t going to ruin itself, people. So, get going.
Wow. Um. That was fast.