One of the things that simultaneously delights and intimidates me is the number of really smart people who follow this blog. I decided to open up Pollan’s latest piece for discussion on our fan page, and I got some great responses:
When Anthony Bourdain debated JSF on the radio a few days ago, the only way Bourdain defended meateating is by putting social participation at the very very top of moral concerns. Nothing for him is graver than offending a host or giving up a shared experience.
And Pollan often uses the same ideas.
Now, you could say they don’t really believe this, as either guy would admit that he wouldn’t participate in some non-food custom he considers horrific. But I think it’s probably something we don’t consider enough when we promote changes in eating habits. When someone says that refusing a host’s dish is some unthinkable breach, our first instinct might be that this is just a more civilized-sounding excuse for the real reasons that person eats meat. But maybe it is the real reason, or the main reason – and if so, maybe we can develop outreach with that reason in mind.
Pollan always brings the issue of animal rights or eating animals as it only applies to the well being of humans. So if Pollan writes about the benefits of eating local food—then it is only in terms of how it applies to the benefit of human beings. I have almost NEVER written a piece by Pollan that deals with the issue of animals on their own terms. He writes about eating local only as it applies to humans, that’s why I hate him. Nothing personal, seriously, there a million like him.
You told me enough about that disgusting article to keep me from reading it. Thanks. I will never buy anything by Michael Pollan again. (And I agree about that toast–what a sanctimonious supremely arrogant gesture—as if he really gave a crap about the goat, as if the goat had a CHOICE in his fate to satisfy Pollan’s gluttony.)
Thanks for saying what I was thinking: that Pollan risks isolating himself as an elitist, a charge that is already leveled against those who promote local eating. I don’t even see what the point was. Eating is communal? Duh.
It’s really creepy how he talks about going to choose the goat and watching it be slaughtered. There has to be [something] wrong with someone who wants to do that, especially when he doesn’t need to. And them to offer a toast to the goat? Really disturbing. I’ve also rarely seen someone so out of touch with how most people live. He’s definitely got a "let them eat cake" air. Completely clueless.
Michael Pollan’s article entitled ‘Power Steer’ is what turned me vegan overnight so for that I am thankful however, this piece irritated me and I didn’t even want to read it. His haiku, eat food, not too much, mostly plants is certainly not evident in this piece. Yes, Erik, apart from the poor goat, everyone had such a swimmingly obnoxiously good time and I found the article and experiment obnoxious, pretentious, elitist and boastful.
I stopped reading when I got to the phrase "precious firewood," just beneath the photograph of the slain goat.
And finally, Adam Merberg, who writes the ‘Say What, Michael Pollan?’ blog:
Honestly, I just couldn’t get myself to read this piece that carefully because I just don’t care. I am very busy these days. Why should I take the time out of my day to read about people who have nothing better to do than sit around roasting a goat for 36 hours?
I doubt anybody other than Pollan could get a piece like this published in the New York Times. It seems more appropriate for Gourmet magazine. Of course, there is a reason that publication no longer exists.
I do plan to write a blog post about some of the relevant issues of class and privilege and their implications for the so-called food movement. This piece will definitely get mention, even if it means that I have to read it.
As for the goat, the whole ceremony surrounding it is certainly annoying. I wrote a few blog posts [Links: #1, #2, #3] about similar issues when they came up in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I may or may not bother to address these kinds of issues more specifically in the context of this piece.
Finally, this piece goes a long way to convince me that B.R. Myers was right to lump Pollan in with the gourmet in his review of The Omnivore’s Dilemma three years ago. The review is certainly not a shining example of vegan advocacy, and I’m still not sold on the comparison of Pollan to Armin Meiwes, but I do think it helps to clarify some things about Pollan’s food writing.