Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Barbecue with Michael Pollan at Crosstown Arts

Every writer has a handful of books they consider truly life changing. I've been greatly inspired by books on a lot of subjects, but in the world of food there are two titles that truly stand out to me as the most important modern works on the subject. Those books are Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. On Tuesday night Pollan was a guest speaker at Crosstown Arts in Midtown, where he discussed and signed copies of his newest book Cooked.  

Pollan's new book includes an in-depth discussion of whole hog barbecue and the event included a tremendous spread of locally-sourced barbecue and sides created by St. Jude chef Miles McMath. It was a truly remarkable meal.

Tickets to the meal portion of the event were only $20, which was an incredible bargain for a selection of locally-sourced barbecue that included all-you-can eat barbecue from sources that included a Newman Farm pig and a wild Mississippi hog.

Despite the array of outstanding food, meeting with Pollan was the obvious highlight of the evening. His writing provides a captivating look at the history, philosophy, morals and culture behind the food choices we make. I got the chance to thank him firsthand for his inspiration. Reading The Omnivore's Dilemma started me on the path to creating this blog and writing my own book; Memphis Barbecue: A Succulent History of Smoke, Sauce and Soul.

 The always-entertaining Deering and Down provided music during the dinner.

After discussing and reading from his new book, Pollan (left) sat for a question and answer session with McMath before answering questions from the audience. Along with Cooked and The Omnivore's Dilemma Pollan also wrote the excellent books In Defense of Food and A Botany of Desire. In Defense of Food is a much shorter, easier to read follow-up to The Omnivore's Dilemma. Meanwhile Gary Taubes, who I mentioned earlier in the post, also followed-up his fascinating door-stopper of a masterwork, Good Calories, Bad Calories, with a much shorter and easier to read book titled Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. It is interesting that both men ultimately followed extremely in-depth and groundbreaking works with books that revisited the same subject in a simplified manner aimed at a broader audience. While both of the later books are more accessible, neither should be considered "dumbed down" in a negative sense if someone is looking for a good starting point with either author without diving straight into the deep end of the pool.


  1. I'm honestly curious, what are foraged urban pickles?

    1. Haha. I honestly don't know since I've never seen wild cucumbers in an empty lot around town. They looked like pickles and tasted like pickles. That's all I can tell you.