What are Some of the Repercussions of Becoming More and More Dependent on Processed and Prepared Foods?

Michael Pollan

As long as we let corporations do most of our cooking for us, our agriculture will continue to be dominated by giant monocultures of grain and animal factories. Big companies only know how to buy from big farms. That means the movement to build a more diversified and local agriculture can develop only so far unless people are willing to buy from those farms—and they will only buy from those farms if they’re cooking. In many ways, reforming American agriculture depends on rebuilding a culture of routine home cooking. I’ve come to think that cooking is a political act, with large consequences not only for ourselves but for the environment and agriculture as well. The decline of everyday home cooking doesn’t only damage the health of our bodies and our land but also our families, our communities, and our sense of how our eating connects us to the world. Our growing distance from any direct, physical engagement with the processes by which the raw stuff of nature gets transformed into a cooked meal is changing our understanding of what food is. Indeed, the idea that food has any connection to nature or human work or imagination is hard to accept when it arrives in a neat package, fully formed. Food becomes just another commodity, an abstraction. And as soon as that happens we become easy prey for corporations selling synthetic versions of the real thing—what I call edible food-like substances. We end up trying to nourish ourselves on images. Continue reading »


How can we get people cooking? One crumb at a time, literally.

If you know how to cook, teach someone who doesn’t. Your son, daughter, father, mother, sister, brother, cousin, neighbor, co-worker, dog walker. The local barista, fire fighter, supermarket cashier. It doesn’t matter how much you know. For the time being, you know more than the other guy. And together at the cutting board, you will teach each other. Eventually your newbie will graduate and pass on your tips and tricks.

Professional chefs: Find time to offer free classes or demos in your community at a food bank, church, senior center or afterschool program. Or lead a tour of a supermarket or farmers’ market on the basics of stocking a pantry and storing perishables.

If cooking nightly is impossible, don’t do it. Embark incrementally, maybe with one or two dishes, once or twice a week. And if a solo endeavor seems daunting, find a cooking buddy to share the labor, the cost of ingredients, and kitchen gear. Maybe you cook and eat that night; maybe it’s for the week ahead.

Think of cooking as an ongoing practice rather than a performance. Each time you cook, the process gets easier and more manageable. Only with consistency can we truly see how cooking can be a part of a regular routine.

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