Here's the Dish

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Tracing Food to Its Roots September 13, 2010

The first chapter of Pollan's "The Botany of Desire" uncovers the surprisingly complex history of the apple. I was amazed to learn the expression "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree," usually suggesting that a child is a lot like their parent, is shockingly ironic given that apple seeds, if planted, will produce a tree that is nothing like the original.

In the spring semester of my sophomore year (2009), I was completely ecstatic to learn that one of my favorite authors would be speaking at Tufts. The itunes version The Omnivore’s Dilemma had kept my long daily ride to one summer internship sane the previous summer and I could not wait to hear more of what the author of a book that unleashed the untold story of a meal would have to say.  I am referring, of course, to none other than author and journalist Michael Pollan, whose recent work has captured the nation’s attention by creating awareness of the U.S. food systems and our growing “national eating disorder.”

Pollan did not disappoint. That March his arrival packed Cohen Auditorium and he proved as dynamic a speaker as a writer. If you were there that day, you are probably fondly reminiscing by now about the incredible local and organic fare that followed in Carmichael and Dewick. (If you weren’t there but wish you were here’s your chance: Watch Pollan’s lecture at Tufts online.)

There were several key take-aways that I took for Pollan’s books ( In Defense of Food was my beach-side read one summer and The Botany of Desire has been this summer’s travel companion) and one of these has been the value of supporting local farmers. The local and organic food movements have had similar ideas–eating fresh, reducing environmental impact–but diverge in their specific regulations and modes of delivery. Local fare is intended to be just that. Many local farmers do follow practices that would be considered organic but do not have the money to pay for the USDA certification.

Certified organic fare, on the other hand, may follow organic practices perfectly but then be shipped across continents (some say the fuel/energy expended to do this defeats a great part of the purpose). I will do a post that explores more about organic and local definitions, pros and controversies soon. I believe both the organic and local food movements have their advantages (especially when combined).

If you’ve read any of Pollan’s books, seen Food Inc., or if you have a chance to watch a few minutes of the lecture, I hope you will be inspired stop by the Farmer’s Market on campus this Wednesday (and every Wednesday through 10/27). Your interest and support will encourage Tufts to continue supplying us with local fare and supporting the farming communities around us.