Michael Pollan


All right. I’ve been pitching the Long Now Foundation and their Seminars on Long Term Thinking for a while now, and no one is taking the bait. That is, some-number-less-than-three of you have clicked through the links I’ve put up. (WordPress only shows me links that hit three clicks in my stats.) You guys are missing out! These lectures are so good. Imagine, super-smart people giving entertaining, informative talks on their area of expertise and how it relates to long-term thinking. What’s better than that?

I just found out that LNF has video of the seminars up on FORA.tv, in full, for free. I prefer the audio versions, so I can simultaneously clean my kitchen, but if you’ve been holding off because you don’t like podcasts, check them out, in color, along with their slides and footage. Here is a list of all of the videos they have up.

And here are a couple of my current favorites:

Saul Griffith’s “Climate Change Recalculated,” in part about how he very rigorously figured out how much power (in Watts) his lifestyle uses, and then scaled back to his share of global energy production. Really, really good.

Steven Johnson’s “The Long Zoom,” about levels of complexity, cholera, television and video games, the evolution of the detective novel, and why bad ideas stick around, among many other things.

Michael Pollan’s “Deep Agriculture,” about the future of food production.

In In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan recommends eating a variety of species. It’s not one of his banner recommendations, which are 1. Eat food (would your great-grandparents recognize it as food?), 2. Not too much, 3. Mostly vegetables. (And I think he later added 4. Nothing that gets advertised.) His sub-banner recommendations are things like eat from an old cuisine and eat a variety of species.

I thought it would be fun to count the species I eat for a period of time, and do-able because since I rarely buy prepared food, I know what’s in everything I eat. I just carried a 3×5 card with me for five days and wrote things down as I ate them. It was fun. It got me a good compliment and gave me an outlandish truth for “two truths and a lie,” which was the check-in for my Crisis Center meeting this week.

It was interesting, too. When I think about food variety, I usually think about a variety of meals, or maybe stealing a meal from a different cuisine than usual, not number of species. The species  really added up fast. I had 58 at the end of day two. I did not go out of my way to make my list longer, either. Note that I have not thoroughly researched this list–I just wrote things down as I ate them. I am not well-schooled in which plants are different species and which are just different cultivars. I discovered, for example, in On Food and Cooking (a wonderful book, if you haven’t seen it), that two plants I wrote down, garnet yam and jewel yam, are not different species, and are not even really yams. They are kinds of sweet potato. They will appear below as “sweet potato” but other, similar instances have probably eluded me. It’s the end of my term and I’m too busy to look them all up. Please correct me if you catch anything!

alfalfa

apple

arugula

asparagus

avocado

banana

barley

basil

bay

bean, black

beets (root & greens)

bell pepper

blueberry

broccoli

buckwheat

cabbage, red

cacao

carrot

celery

chard

chicken (egg)

chive

cinnamon

corn

cow (meat, milk)

dill

eggplant

endive, Frisee

fennel

garbanzo bean

garlic

ginger

goat (milk)

grape, Sultana

grape, wine

herring

honey bee (honey)

kelp

kiwi

kumquat

lavender

lemon

lentil (Red Chief)

lettuce (Boston, red leaf, sentry)

mango

marjoram

mint

mushroom, common

nutritional yeast

oat

olive (fruit, oil)

onion, yellow

orange

oregano

oyster

parsley

peanut

pepper

pig

pineapple

pistachio

plum

potato, red

quinoa

raspberry

rice

rosemary

sage

salmon

sesame

sheep (meat)

soy

spinach

squash (summer, zuchini)

strawberry

sugar

summer savory

sweet potato (jewel, garnet)

tea

thyme

tomato

turmeric

walnut

wheat

I’m keeping track of what species I’m eating this week, for a blog post. Michael Pollan says in In Defense of Food that it’s probably a good idea to eat a large variety of species. So I thought I’d keep track and see.

Tonight I ate dinner as I often do with my friend Seth Rydmark. He lives in a Christian dormitory that offers free dinners to guests of dormees. It’s a nice bunch of kids. (And beautiful singers–ever notice that Christians can mostly sing? They know the harmonies for “Happy Birthday”–stuff like that.) Seth and I get geeky about psychology (and sometimes theology) and are usually by far the last to leave the table, deep in some obscure conversation. Tonight, the salad was made of one of those baby-green mixes and I was trying to identify the species. I asked Seth if he knew the name of that pale, frizzy stuff. He said no and asked the girl next to him, and explained my project. She said, “Why would anyone want to do that?”

Seth said, “Well, you know, whatever there is in life, there’s a nerd for that. And Nathen is a nerd’s nerd.”

I’ve been working my whole life to deserve a compliment like that!

And by the way, does anyone out there know the name of that pale, frizzy salad green?