Michael Pollan and Ruth Reichl Hash out the Food Revolution

Be a fly in the soup at the dinner table with two of America’s most iconic food writers

Michael Pollan and Ruth Reichl dine at Bell & Anchor in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. (Illustration by Lara Tomlin)
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R: No way you can understand this with your mind. The whole pleasure/pain, disgusting/exciting...

P: The interesting thing too is that cheesemakers don’t have a vocabulary to talk about this. You can understand why, if you’re selling food, you don’t want to talk about disgust. I found a couple people in that world who were really articulate, though particularly this eccentric guy in France named Jim Stillwaggon. An American in France, a cheesemaker and a philosopher. He had a website called “Cheese, Sex, Death and Madness,” which is really out there. He’s crazy and fearless in writing about that frontier between attraction and repulsion.

R: Where is he?

P: He’s in France. But the website, last time I checked, the link was broken. I write about it in the book. I heard about him from Sister Noëlla, the cheesemaker in Connecticut. [She has now passed along cheesemaking duties to others in the abbey.] She was willing to go there with me and talk about these issues. Which is really interesting. She believes cheese should be added to the Eucharist, that it’s an even better symbol than bread because it reminds us of our mortality. I hope she doesn’t get in trouble with the pope for this heresy!


R: The last pope, maybe. This one, it’s probably OK.

P: Of all the byways I went down, that one was perhaps the most fun. There’s a great psychological and philosophical literature around disgust. Do you know Paul Rozin, do you know his work? He’s a psychologist at Penn who studies our unconscious attitudes toward food [see “Accounting for Taste,” p. 60]. He’s very entertaining on the subject.

R: Yeah, he’s a fascinating guy, a psychology professor who focuses on taste. I had a really interesting on-stage discussion with him last year at the Rubin Museum of Art. We were talking about food and memory, which quickly got into pain and pleasure around food. I think we could have gone on talking all night.

P: This pork is really good, I’m going to give you a piece.

R: The chicken is also good, do you want a piece? I assume you’d rather have dark meat than white meat?


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