Food Journalists are Pollanized

This piece by Hermione Hoby in the Guardian is a prototypical example of uncritical food journalism that fully accepts the narrative and philosophy of the so-called food movement.  The article is a quasi-interview with Michael Pollan and discusses his forthcoming Netflix series based on Pollan's 2013 book, Cooked.  

In a testament to Pollan's influence on food-types, Hoby says that he and others have been "Pollanized."   

Perhaps the most remarkable claim in the piece is this one:

[Pollan] is also uncomfortable at being thought of as evangelical (one magazine called him “America’s high priest of food”); his mode is investigative, not prescriptive.

To say that Pollan's "mode" is investigative, not prescriptive is wholly at odds with the facts.  And, the authors inability to discern that truth probably represents one reason why Pollan has been so influential. People read Pollan's stories (he is a great writer) and don't realize the implicit persuasion and moral the stories are attempting to instill.   Journalists don't bother to get the other side of the story and they often don't bother to read/watch what he says when not writing books.   I previously touched on this:  

One challenge is that many popular food books (by folks like Pollan, Moss, Warner, etc.) often refrain from specifically mentioning much about policy in the book. But, then when your see these authors out on the interview circuit, they often talk a lot about policy and advocate all kinds of things. This has the consequence of their writing appearing more centrist and “ideologically neutral” than is actually the case, and it also lets the authors off the hook by rarely putting them in a position of having to seriously defend their policy proposals.

The truth, of course, is that Pollan has repeatedly offered prescriptive advice for policy makers and for food consumers.  He wrote a 2008 article for the New York Times Magazine entitled Farmer in Chief and was a co-author of a 2014 editorial in the Washington Post outlining a "national food policy." These are chock full of prescriptive policy proposals.  And, he constantly gives prescriptive dietary advice (just google "Pollan quote"). Here is perhaps his most well known: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (without any hint of irony, Hoby offers this very quote later in the piece).

You can agree or disagree with Pollan's policy or eating advice, but to say his mode is "not prescriptive" is frankly absurd.  

The author also seems to miss the irony of Pollan claiming:

I’m uncomfortable with the foodie label, it gets stuck to me all the time.

This is all said while Pollan eschews the salmon because it's farm raised, changes his mind on an order of squid ink tagliatelle because it is from the "the Rohan duck’s provenance - a farm in upstate New York", and then finally dines on a $53 lunch of butternut squash soup, duck leg, and cheeses with names like Moses Sleeper, the Bayley Hazen and Ascutney Mountain .  If this doesn't describe a foodie, then I don't know what does. There's nothing wrong with being a foodie*, and it stretches credulity to believe Pollan is anything but.  To claim otherwise is to render the word "foodie" meaningless.

*I consider myself a "skeptical foodie", which is the title of the first chapter of my 2013 book The Food Police.