Michael Pollan – the Science of eating well

from the podcast site Enquiring Minds: https://soundcloud.com/inquiringminds

This is an unusually intelligent food discussion.

He also explains – again unusually well – what happens with proper (sourdough) bread. He also mentions the Italian research that suggests that those eating slow fermented sourdough (20+ hours) (such as mine), even some celiacs can tolerate it.

In any case, he talks about the beneficial effects of cooking, the paleo diet issues (including the problem with factory-farmed meats vs true wild meats of yore), and the value of fermentation. Also the epidemiological studies indicating plant-based diets are best, but he qualifies that very intelligently.

Towards the end of the bread discussion he speculates that perhaps the reason people nowadays are having problems with bread/gluten is that we (our gut systems) have changed due to modern diets and lifestyles, and ‘that may be at the root of a great many of the allergies we see because gluten intolerance is …. and auto-immune disorders that has to do with our relationship with bacteria.” But the growth in gluten free is far in excess of any change in our microbial cultures.

He has written a book which emphasises the importance of microbes. So I guess I’ll have to get that book!

Not sure which book, but this guy has an interesting selection starting with ‘The Botany of Desire’ to the most recent in 2013 ‘Cooked – a natural history of transformation’ and ‘Food Politics: How the Food industry influences Nutrition and Health.’

(I am still listening to this whilst writing this entry:) Ha! He is the guy whose body-bacteria was used for some experimental cheese recently (from belly-button, between the toes etc!). This playful experiment was based on noticing that stinky cheeses have similar bacteria to those we find on our bodies. I read years ago, for example, that the only place they have found the sanfrancisco yeasts naturally is in the human mouth, not in the fair fields of California.

Then he is discussing a recent article of his in the New Yorker about the behavioural and strategic intelligence of plants. Sensory sophistication. Plants have 15-20 distinct senses – smell, taste, sound – they can recognise the sound of caterpillars chomping on leaves and then prepare chemical defense against them! – also can sense chemicals in the soil, soil, volume, hardness, touch obviously, they can move towards a pole.

To demonstrate plants ability to demonstrate intention and consciousness, in a video a friend showed him a bean-plant in time-lapse photography over several days, looking nowhere except at a pole 18″ away and it throws itself over and over again until it finally makes contact, and after it has made one revolution around, it relaxes and starts to grow on it happily, so it seems they make a noise and are using some sort of radar to sense the pole, or maybe there is some other basis. The main point is that they have incredible sensory acuteness, brilliant defenses, and have kin recognition – they don’t compete with others of the same family. Also: trees in a forest are linked by fungi, so all fir trees in a forest, for example, are linked and they use the fungal network to send both messages and food. ‘The wood-wide web’ it has been called! (and why our internal flora have to do with brain function, I am thinking.) Can plants learn? Can they remember? ( I would say yes), Even though they don’t have brains. But how can you do these things without neurons? There must be other ways. (I think most of our theories about brain function are totally wrong so this is a promising direction.)

Amazing stuff!

Amazon.ca search page on him:



By the way, I came to the above interview from one previous with Deborah Blum about poisons in modern industrial/commercial practices etc.

Michael Pollan’s Plant article in the New Yorker:


The Greatest Hits of in NY Times:


Also in NYTimes:  http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/michael_pollan/



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