Author Michael Pollan

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You have to travel a lot for book tours and lectures. How do you eat well when you’re on the road?

It’s always a challenge eating on the road. Airport food is a particularly treacherous thing to navigate. When I’m on the road I’m basically a vegetarian or I eat fish. I don’t eat meat on the road because you don’t know what you’re getting. I always have oatmeal when I’m in a hotel and avoid the breakfast buffets. There are good farm-to-table restaurants now in every city in America. I ask some of the Slow Food chapters [for restaurant recommendations] if I can find them. [Still] I was so happy to get home this week and have a home-cooked meal. I’ve been cooking every night.

What would you tell people who say they are too busy to cook?

I guess the first thing I would say is take an inventory of how you spend your time and make sure that’s true. My argument in [Cooked] is that [cooking is] very important and very rewarding, and therefore worth finding time for. We all found two hours to navigate the Internet outside of work in the last 10 or 15 years. We find time to get to the gym or yoga class, because we feel these things are essential to our sanity and our health. I feel that way about cooking now and I didn’t used to.

I think our biggest problem is we’re just kind of thoughtless about our eating. The more you cook, the more conscious you are about the whole process, and inevitably you make better decisions. There’s great pleasure in working and growing food or in cooking your food. Do it a little bit and you will feel more self-reliant and less dependent. To carve out a little space where corporations are not in your business doing your business is really rewarding to do.

Do you have any guilty food pleasures?

Well, I have more of a fat tooth than a sweet tooth, so I would be more likely to binge on really good cheese or pork belly than on dessert. Bacon is a weakness I have. And Cracker Jack is my junk food of choice, although I would argue that it’s not junk food. It’s a traditional Native American treat. They invented it, supposedly. 

As a well-known advocate for healthy eating, when you’re out buying food like Cracker Jack at a grocery store, do you ever feel like you’re under a microscope?

I have had a couple of cases of being recognized in the grocery store. I remember I was at Berkeley Bowl [supermarket], which is a paragon of right-thinking foodies, once. My son was quite young then and on weekends he was allowed to have a sweetened cereal. So I was reaching for the Fruity Pebbles just as this tall, bearded graduate student tapped on my shoulder and said, “I’m watching Michael Pollan shop for groceries.” I was really freaked out. I stayed out of that store for a while.

But now I just don’t care. I’m less fanatical than a lot of the people who have read my books think. There’s no right answer. All I hope to do is encourage people to learn about where their food comes from and make truly independent, informed decisions and not be a victim of marketing. That’s it. That’s all I care about. And wherever [people] come out on meat eating or not meat eating or veganism or raw food, as long as it’s considered, I’m thrilled. S