Michael Pollan takes aim at “nutritionism” in his new book
By SARAH KERR
We prepare our meals from plants and animals—a fact we can choose either to note with some humility or to hide from our awareness by forgetting. This has been a recurring theme in Michael Pollan’s books of late. Like all good writers, Pollan aims to describe what he sees as precisely as he can. But this does not lead him to a showily fine prose style. That would be an aesthetic approach, and though Pollan often worries that we’ve lost the sense of pleasure, he is very much the ethicist—and, if we’re honest, he is once in a while even a scold. This is happily offset by a sly modesty (“By now,” he self-accuses in 1997’s A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder, “you have probably noticed a tendency of mine to lean rather heavily on words and theories in my dealings with the world”), a deftness at animating philosophical problems, and a knack—unusual in books that seek to change minds and habits—for sustaining an atmosphere of suspense.