Posts Tagged: Michael Pollan
Edible Education course draws a crowd
Not just what we eat, but also how food is produced and its impacts on the economy, health and the environment. How the food system has been transformed, why it matters and what we can do about it.
“People care about food,” said opening lecturer Michael Pollan, author and UC Berkeley journalism professor. “I think food is a very powerful teaching tool.”
Pollan and Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters, a UC Berkeley alumna who founded the Edible Schoolyard Project, started Edible Education in 2011 as a way to bring food education to undergraduate students. This semester's course — which is co-hosted by New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman and poet Robert Hass — has an added dimension: Lectures are being live streamed to the public. The opening lecture has received more than 7,000 views so far. Upcoming guest speakers will include Marion Nestle, Eric Schlosser and Raj Patel.
“We're a public university,” said course instructor Garrison Sposito, a renowned UC Berkeley soil scientist. “Let's reach the public. How can we do that in today's world? Let's do that by technology.”
As part of the UC Global Food Initiative, UC Berkeley also hopes to offer Edible Education as an online course available for credit to students throughout the UC system, said David Chai, special adviser to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.
Edible Education is presented by the Edible Schoolyard Project, Berkeley Food Institute, UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources and UC Global Food Initiative with support from the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Office and the Epstein/Roth Foundation.
Advancing food studies
“If you look at the lineup of speakers, it's pretty impressive,” said Bittman, who is a distinguished visiting fellow this spring at the Berkeley Food Institute. “I think the results will be fantastic.”
Having the support of UC President Janet Napolitano and the Global Food Initiative adds credibility to the study of food, said Nestle, a food studies, nutrition and public health expert who will deliver the next Edible Education lecture at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 2.
Nestle, a New York University professor with a visiting appointment at UC Berkeley's journalism school, recalled having to convince NYU's administration in 1996 that food studies was a suitable academic pursuit. “We were it at the time,” Nestle said. “Now everybody's doing it. It's very exciting.”
Hass, a UC Berkeley professor of English and former U.S. poet laureate who has taught an environmental studies course with Sposito, said that when they invited Pollan to speak nearly two decades ago, “you could see the way students were engaged. Immediately, they could connect.” Today's students are even more sophisticated, Hass said.
“It's important that we all become more aware of what the food industry is doing — I can't walk by without someone eating a hamburger,” UC Berkeley sophomore Audrey Nguyen said. “We can't sacrifice our health for convenience.”
Pollan said there is a place for meat but he encouraged people to eat less of it and said he would like to see changes in how animals are raised. During his lecture, “A Brief History of the Modern Food System,” he noted a rapid transformation into an oil-dependent food chain. He demonstrated his point by placing a McDonald's hamburger on a table with four glasses, into which he poured a dark liquid (chocolate syrup) meant to represent oil.
“(It takes) 26 ounces of oil to produce one double quarter pounder with cheese,” Pollan said. “We're eating a lot of oil.”
Upcoming Edible Education lectures will further explore the rise and future of the food movement.
- Edible Education (includes link to watch lectures live)
- Food luminaries to light up spring semester
- Mark Bittman's menu to include UC Berkeley
- Food education streams into the spotlight
- UC Global Food Initiative
Healthful and mindful eating
The low cost of food in the United States is one of the factors contributing to food gluttony and weight problems. On average, Americans spend less than 10 percent of their disposable income on food — 5.5 percent on food “at home” (grocery stores, retail outlets), and 3.9 percent on food “away from home” (USDA data, 2009).
Compare what Americans spend with other countries (household final consumption expenditures; USDA data, 2007)
While food sustains life, it also provides emotional comfort. But many people (for many reasons) overindulge. As a society, we tend to be mindless eaters, not mindful eaters. We eat on the run, in the car, at the desk, and from shrink-wrapped frozen containers that have been microwaved. Many people no longer cook, or they consider putting the “shrink-wrapped frozen container" in the microwave as cooking.
A little more connection with our food, whether we prepare it ourselves, or not, can help us to slow down, eat proper portions, and make better food choices. For those who don’t know much about cooking, it’s not difficult to make simple and healthful meals. Grab a cookbook from the library, or take a cooking class in your community. Healthful recipes can also be found online:
- Davis Farmers Market recipes (note: the author is on the market board as a consumer representative)
- National Institutes of Health recipes
- Mayo Clinic recipes
Eating healthfully is a skill we all can master, regardless of our budgets, hectic schedules, or cooking prowess. And eating healthfully doesn’t mean depriving ourselves of delicious food or occasional splurges.
National Nutrition Month is just ending, and I spent some time writing and collecting adages that remind us to eat healthfully and mindfully. Here are ten (of many) maxims that I like. Perhaps you have some to add to the list.
- If it isn’t really good or healthful, don’t bother eating it.
- If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, you are not hungry. (thank you Michael Pollan and the NY Times)
- Choose appropriate portions. (guide 1 and guide 2)
- Put the fork down and take some breaths between each bite.
- Do not put food in your mouth when there is food in your mouth.
- Avoid eating in the car or in front of the television.
- Learn to prepare three dishes well. (simple is fine)
- Visit your farmers market or produce stand regularly. Ask questions. Try something new.
- It’s better to pay the grocer than the doctor. (M. Pollan again)
- Thank the person who grew the food. Thank the person who prepared the food. Be thankful you have food.
It’s never too late for any of us to make one or two small changes that will get us started on a more healthful diet. Blissful eating!