5 Timeless Lessons Michael Pollan Dropped in an Interview With Oprah
Obviously, Oprah knows how to bring out the good stuff.
Podcasts have taken over our earbuds to bring information, laughs, suspenseful investigations, and tearjerker stories anywhere you are. In Oprah’s case, she repurposed interviews from her Super Soul series in audio form to create Super Soul Conversations on Apple’s iTunes. Every week, she posts interviews with leading thought leaders diving into topics regarding life, spirituality, relationships, finances, and overall wellness to ultimately (and hopefully) give the listening audience a stroke of revelation, which Oprah coined an “aha moment.”
In a recently released podcast, Oprah revisits a Super Soul interview that she conducted with Michael Pollan in 2015. Pollan, best known for his riveting dissection of the foods we eat in New York Times best-selling titles such as The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Food Rules, chats with Oprah about his personal relationship with food. In the interview, he shares that he still eats meat (but in moderation), enjoys being in nature, and loves to throw dinner parties with his wife. And wrapped up these details, Pollan also drops a few timeless food lessons that we all can live/eat by.
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
After his years of research invested into agriculture commodity foods, Pollan explains to Oprah that “we complicate eating,” when it should be much simpler. In recent years, health fad culture has become more intense with what seems like an endless train of new, trendy diets and get-slim/well-fast systems that are based on eliminating entire food groups. Instead of making food so difficult to understand, Pollan’s philosophy includes ceasing obsessive calorie counting, eating basic ingredients, and counting the number of times that you cook in a week.
“Our most profound engagement with the natural world happens on our plates.”
Pollan explains that for too long we have been disconnected from our food in terms of where it’s grown, who grew it, and how food gets on our plates. He believes that his work has been a reflection of (re)discovering those links and connections to food. A steadily increasing number of food brands are lifting the veil to expose the origins of their products, while also removing potentially harmful chemicals and additives. New food innovators on the market begin with transparency, making it easier for consumers to decide where they will spend their money.
Oprah summarizes it well in saying, “Three times a day, we get to express our values through food.” We decide what companies and brands that we want to support with our dollars. Whether you are interested in workers’ rights, environmental issues, organic farming, buying local, or any other topic in food, you have the decision to support a cause each time you eat.
“A separate children’s menu is a bad idea.”
As Oprah reminisces on watching her grandmother grow and harvest food as a child, she says that she always longed for canned food because that’s what she thought rich people ate. She wanted to eat something different from her grandmother as a child and with that anecdote, Pollan expressed that kids’ food should be people food. “Kids’ food is hamburgers, French fries pizza, and nuggets, and that’s the classic children's menu,” he says. “Suddenly it draws a line at the dinner table.”
Pollan says he even fell into the same trap with his son at one point, only feeding him certain kid-friendly foods instead of the dishes that everyone else at the table were eating. He believes that when everyone eats something different, “you lose the connection” at the table. This is a strong reminder that even though schedules are rushed, occasionally sitting down at the table to share and eat the same meal (both adults and children) gives the family a moment to reconnect.
“Cooking is an expression of love.”
For those of you who enjoy cooking for others and love to throw amazing dinner parties, keep on racking up the good karma points. As Pollan puts it, “There is a gift in any act of cooking.” Pollan digs into the concept that for many years, consumers have let food businesses cook for them, to the detriments of their own health.
“Industry does not cook very well. They use too much salt, fat, and sugar,” Pollan says. In turn, those nutrient-deficient foods, never quite satisfy our appetite and keep us coming back for more. The solution? Cook more. When you cook at home, you have better control over the levels of nutrients in your diet.
“Just stir the pot.”
Multi-tasking is helmed as the “IT” task in any industry. However, Pollan begs to differ. “In the kitchen, you can reclaim the present,” he says. Cooking at home snaps you into a place of living in the moment (except when the kids are running around with exceptional gusto). When possible, try to simply be engaged with the task in front of you; if you are stirring a pot of food, just stir. Most of us are conditioned to slip into a worrisome mode without even noticing, thinking about the past and the future, and rarely spend time in the present moment. He provides the example of his dreading chopping onions until he decided that he will simply chop the onions, not rush the process, and as Nike says, just do it.
If you want to hear more from Pollan, check out his recently released book, How to Change Your Mind, in which he explores the history of and how the use of psychedelics impacts our consciousness and outlook on life.