…and I love it.
In the new Netflix docu-series “Cooked,” Pollan (bestselling author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “The Botany of Desire” among others), gets deep into it.
And by “it” I mean all of it.
Pollan covers topics from traditional open-fire cooking by indigenous people of Australia, to food processing by modern corporations, to India, to hippie hog farmers.
And that’s just episode one.
Here is what the media has to say
From the New York Times
Michael Pollan is food-shaming us again, this time in a four-part Netflix docu-series. It’s a gentle sort of shaming, and informative, but unless you’ve previously been converted to Pollanology through his books (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) or his other screen appearances (“Food, Inc.”), you’ll come away feeling mighty guilty about what you eat.
I’m beginning to detect where this is going….
Somehow, the NYT is going to make this about class and poverty.
Am I right? Let’s see…
Mr. Pollan’s messages are important to hear and are engagingly presented in this series. Still, there’s a disconnect that’s never addressed. It would be great if all 7.4 billion of us could hunt our own lizards and cook them over an open fire, spend hours baking our own bread from grain milled on stone, and so on. But there’s a gentrification to Mr. Pollan’s brand of culinary advocacy.
The world’s poorest people — some seen in idyllic imagery here — have to devote long hours to basic subsistence, and the world’s relatively well off have the luxury to indulge in artisanal cooking. Yet applying his ideas across the whole range of human circumstances is a trickier subject than this pretty series wants to tackle.
Aha! I was right! Well I guess I had an unfair advantage. I did, after all, read the entire article before making my prediction.
In any event, sure, this reviewer is technically right. But I hate the focus of this review.
I mean really, a review of the show should be a review of the show. If you want to write an Op-ed, then I’d understand focusing on how difficult this problem is to solve globally.
I mean – aren’t most global issues difficult to solve?
The goal of this series is clearly to reach more people with information that matters. And that it achieves. Quite beautifully, at that.
From Mother Jones
This one’s a bit kinder, although they do criticize Pollan for failing to “offer viewers detailed advice about how to increase how much they cook.”
Much of the information presented in the Cooked Netflix series won’t be new to foodies who follow Pollan’s work. It touches on the rise of industrialization and processed food, the beneficial gut microbes that thrive when we eat fermented food, and the importance of eating meat that came from ethically treated animals. However, even viewers obsessed with health food trends will be seduced by the series’ vibrant scenes, which provide a glimpse of how cultures around the world make—and break—their proverbial bread.
I think the series is fantastic, and of course, I think Michael Pollan is fantastic.
I love the series for two reasons:
1. People Don’t Read
If you are reading this blog, then I congratulate you. Because while writers at the NY Times and Mother Jones are writing to an audience that is often highly familiar with Pollan’s work, the truth is that the majority of people don’t ever read.
Sure, plenty of people do read. But even among the most educated, plenty of people don’t.
And sure, more people are reading than ever before. On all sorts of media, yes. But I reiterate – many people don’t.
Media is increasingly converting to video. So when information that is normally found in books goes to Netflix, I’m all about it. Especially when it educates people on something so important.
2. Processed Food is Still King
Again, readers of the NY Times and Mother Jones represent a small subset of the population, despite these being huge publications. So when these publications write reviews, they are writing for so called “sophisticated people” who have heard it all before.
But most people haven’t heard it all before. They’re still confused. And it’s not their fault.
And sure – Pollan’s books (and similar books) are extremely well known. They have been read by millions. But these millions represent a tiny percentage of the population as a whole.
I don’t take a militant approach to shedding light on important issues. I take a “leaky information approach.”
Most people don’t read, but the people who do – they spread the word. The others end up reading only the headlines. And that’s OK.
Most people don’t eat a reasonable diet, but the people who do – they spread the word. We won’t end up eating a perfect diet. And that’s OK. There is no such thing as a perfect diet. It’s all about steps towards better information for more people. This series helps us get there.
I am so happy that awareness of the importance of whole foods is becoming stronger everyday. But for the vast majority of people in this country (and increasingly around the world), processed food is still king!!
So I say – the more information the better! The more people reached the better!
This, my friends, is how progress happens.
And I applaud Michael Pollan (and people like him) for bringing important concepts to new people every day.
Great series. Check out “Cooked” on Netflix and let me know what you think.
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