I didn’t think of writer Michael Pollan as anything more than a fine journalist when his work first started influencing the way I think about food, some 12 years ago. (I switched to eating organic potatoes after reading this article). Then he took on another title, bestselling author, with “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food.” And now he’s more than that; he’s become a public figure, and a hero to those in what I think of as the good food movement.
Journalists aren’t generally comfortable with public roles – being nominated by thousands of Facebook fans, for instance, to serve as secretary of Agriculture. When I interviewed Pollan recently about his latest book, “Food Rules,” for The Seattle Times, I had the chance to ask what he thinks about being pushed to be a public leader. His reply:
“This is a movement that is in need of leadership…. But it's not a role I'm well suited to. I'm not a political actor. I know how to talk to the public, I don't know how to negotiate with the food industry, I don't know how to move legislation in Congress, I don't know how to write legislation. If you told me, 'OK, buddy, put up or shut up, how do we write the farm bill?' I don't know how we do that. And the movement needs people who do, people who understand the ways of Washington.
“But there are signs that these people are emerging. There are a lot of young people getting into the food movement now; they ask me how to get involved. I tell them to go to law school and do things like that. They all want to be chefs and writers, but we need other people, other roles.”
True. But we also need inspiration and guidance, and Pollan’s work already provides plenty of that.
Does an author have a responsibility to do anything more?
Rebekah Denn blogs at eatallaboutit.com.