Michael Pollan

The Book All Freshmen Are Reading

In the early 1930s, Gertrude Stein, Oakland-raised oracle of the Lost Generation, revisited her hometown. It was the trip that inspired her infamous and oft-contested line: “There is no there there.” Stein reportedly gazed upon the site where her house had once been, razed to make way for new developments. “That is what makes your identity,” Stein writes in her autobiography, “not a thing that exists but something you do or do not remember.”

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

Michael Pollan and Me: When Lives, Books and Acid Trips Collide

Two journalists who’ve spent varying amounts of time teaching their craft at Cal give themselves an assignment that, in the end, blows away that well-worn rubric of “who, what, where, when, why.”

They are Michael Pollan, famous for his smart writing about food, and Don Lattin, a.k.a. me, known for my reverently irreverent writing about religion. Pollan and I found a subject that falls within each of our “beats,” a magic mushroom that offers the omnivore a tantalizing glimpse of God.  

The Berkeley Bowl Cookbook Celebrates the Unusual and Unknown

When I go to Berkeley Bowl with Laura McLively, I immediately feel like a tourist, too delighted to keep my cool among the rows of citrus and loose leafy greens. Used to produce sold in hard plastic clamshells at my Los Angeles Trader Joe’s, I marvel at the wall of eggplants, not just purple but white, green, and some—like the tiny, speckled Indian graffiti eggplant—all three colors at once.

Carbonated Clash: A New Book Predicts Berkeley’s Soda Tax Will Spread Elsewhere

After Berkeley became the first city in the nation to pass an excise soda tax one year ago, opponents dismissed Berkeley as such an outlier that the victory was inconsequential.  “Berkeley is not necessarily the trendsetter that they claim to be,” Roger Salazar, spokesman for the No Berkeley Beverage Tax campaign, was quoted saying. “They are a nuclear-free zone. They give free pot to low-income folks. Berkeley is Berkeley.”

Antibiotic Overload: Experts Blame Livestock Use for Human Resistance, Even Obesity

Antibiotics were once a doctor’s best weapon against infections, but now some 2 million people a year become infected with bacteria that are resistant to them. On Tuesday, a panel of experts hosted by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism largely blamed the crisis—23,000 people die a year from infections that can’t be cured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—on the livestock industry for overusing these life-saving drugs.

The Locavore’s Dilemma

Despite its immense popularity, it doesn’t yet have a common name: some call it “locavorism,” others “localism.” In terms of clarity, the compound “eating locally” may be best.

From the Winter 2009 Food for Thought issue of California.

Spilling the Beans: New Book Blows the Lid off Montana’s Organic “Lentil Underground”

Here in Northern California, the heart of the organic food movement, lentils are often taken for granted—a lowly shelf staple lacking the cult status of coffee, wine or artisan chocolate.

But there is much to learn from these humble legumes, insists Liz Carlisle, a former country music singer and Harvard grad who is now a doctoral student in geography at UC Berkeley. For the past few years, she has immersed herself in lentil agriculture, ecology and economics. And along the way, she has become something of a lentil evangelist.

Cari Borja’s Berkeley Salon: Designer Stages 52 Dinners for Intriguing Friends and Strangers

Racks of gowns, manikins, and sewing machines crowd the edges of Cari Borja’s design studio, but a huge dining table occupies the center. It’s where she holds the dinners that resemble the fieldwork of an anthropologist outside the Ivory Tower. For a series of 52 meals—44 already served—she has transformed her studio into a salon where guests, from the famous to the unknown, discover connections and savor a slow meal.

Is 2014 the Tipping Point? Activist Researcher Fights to Raise Wages of Restaurant Workers

Big tips make headlines. Consider the almost $500 gratuity on a $6 bill received by a Steak ‘n’ Shake waitress in Indianapolis, or the $1,000 that host Ellen DeGeneres gave Edgar Martiroysan, the pizza delivery guy at the Academy awards. But reality is far less lucrative for most restaurant workers, many of whom struggle to make ends meet in a notoriously low-paid industry.

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