Michael Pollan: The Family Meal Is Really the Nursery of Democracy

From The Writer’s Almanac:

Today is the birthday of author Michael Pollan. He’s the author of books on food and the food industry, notably The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006), which The New York Times named one of the 10 best books of the year. His most recent book is This is Your Mind on Plants (2021), his second foray into plant-based psychedelics.

Pollan first became interested in the subject of food through his interest in gardening. He said: “Because I was interested in nature and wilderness and Thoreau and Emerson. I brought all their intellectual baggage to my garden here in New England and found that it didn’t work out very well, because ultimately Thoreau and Emerson’s love for nature was confined to the wild….”

Pollan is a big advocate of the family meal. Convenience foods and fast food found their way into the American diet in a big way in the 20th century: first, during World War II, with new technology that processed food and made it more shelf-stable; and then later, when women began entering the work force in greater numbers, but were still solely responsible for putting meals on the table.

Pollan argues that today’s working couples need to figure out ways to divide household duties in such a way that makes having home-cooked, family dinners possible. “There’s something magical that happens when people eat from the same pot,” Pollan says. “The family meal is really the nursery of democracy. It’s where we learn to share; it’s where we learn to argue without offending. It’s just too critical to let go, as we’ve been so blithely doing.”

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