The Holy Church of Food

From Slate:

Book_3 Buy a hog? An entire hog? Cut it up and put the pieces in a freezer? I’m a fan of Michael Pollan’s work, but he does have a tendency to hurtle himself into the stratosphere like an errant missile, then plummet back to earth and casually pick up where he left off. This time it’s on Page 168 of his latest book, In Defense of Food: One minute he’s carefully explaining the difference between “free-range” and “pastured” eggs, the next minute he’s perched on his own private planet brandishing a grocery list that might as well be headed “carrots, magic.” He acknowledges the possibility that some readers might not have room at home to install a hog-sized freezer, but that pretty much concludes the reality-based portion of this suggestion. Two pages later and he’s off again, explaining why it’s a good idea to go foraging in the wild for your salad greens. Pollan has been called an elitist for years, and his critics are bound to seize on the new book as fuel. But these bouts of the surreal don’t reflect his politics, they reflect his religion—the holy, catholic, and apostolic church of food, where only martyrs and lost souls have to shop at Safeway.

There’s always been a streak of the willfully impractical in Pollan’s worldview. Like the other great, radical writers whose subject is the death grip of the food industry—Joan Gussow, Marion Nestle, Eric Schlosser—he’s eloquent and persuasive; but come the revolution, he probably doesn’t belong on the tactics-and-logistics committee. What he likes best is spinning long, mesmerizing tales from his immense research, as he did in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the book that made him a star. It’s a beautifully handled polemic against modern agribusiness until you get to the last chapter, the one that’s supposed to bring it all home.

More here.