Maintenance Phase Podcast Discussion

Moved here by mods

I mean I absolutely would NOT be adverse to any and all comments you have on this one! Or just a general “Allhat Roasts” where you directly roast Mr Pollen.


Hahaha, I should totally do a re-read and go chapter-by-chapter. Multi-course roast.


The puns write themselves.


thanks for the heads up, I know the podcast has been mentioned here many times, but never when I was in the mood to add to my queue. :slight_smile:

(eta: removing the spoiler tag now that the thread is moved over)
I agreed with the points about education not being sufficient for behaviour change - I kept on coming across this at work, and I just would think (or say), “have you met people?” I guess it goes to not just the ignoring of context/constraints/cost of change, but also ignoring that we are emotional beings.

I disagreed about how glib they were about taking kids to farms. I think they fell into the same sort of family farm trap they had been talking about earlier. I think it’s good for kids to be exposed to the agritourism farms, pick your own apples, strawberries, blueberries, etc, and seeing a few animals, but it feels like front of house vs. back of house performance. It doesn’t scale at all unless the farm is primarily doing the theatre. Farms are just so very dangerous already, I can only imagine how much worse when there are a bunch of randos checking it out - even in factory tours you aren’t allowed on the floor.

The idea around farmer’s markets being so inefficient from an economic perspective was really interesting. I’m definitely complicit in going to the weekend markets primarily for amusement/local tourism vibes.

I look forward to your reactions to the podcast!


I would also be interested in a conversation on this. If you start a thread over in the pop culture area tag me please. :smiling_face:

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My response to the podcast- not funny, lol- mods feel free to move this IDK where it should go

First, I did really like the episode! I’d recommend it to anyone interested. I’m just a naturally critical person when it comes to these types of things, especially when it’s an area of interest to me.

I agree on the taking kids to farms thing! I believe there is also quite a lot of research to support teaching kids to cook as a way to get them to have a broader repertoire of liked foods.

I also thought they were too dismissive about the whole Organic label thing-- like they mentioned how government standards are important and the people who do those inspections are trusted “experts” and highly skilled, etc. and that therefor transparency to the customer was irrelevant. But that misses the point. The people who created the guidelines to qualify for Organic were not neutral third-parties, and they were not small farmers. There really are a lot of farmers who are essentially farming organic but do not meet the very specific guidelines to get the label. I think that’s a real issue, not imagined, but I feel like they dismissed it all as “libertarian” nonsense because of the source. I mean, I’m not a huge Joel Salatin fan either, but that point is not his view alone.

I did like how they mentioned that there’s nothing magical about small businesses that makes them necessarily better than big businesses, I agree completely. Some of the worst worker experiences I’ve seen have been at small businesses because they have no oversight. I thought the info about farmers markets was interesting too. My understanding, though, is that this is hugely dependent on the area. Wealthy urban and suburban farmer’s markets are what they were talking about, IMO, but I have heard very different things about rural and small town farmer’s markets. Like, it’s not essential that farmers pay so much money to attend- that’s an optional thing which could be subsidized in any number of ways. I did agree with the concept of a 24-hour permanent food market though, but I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. I mean why not have rich people donate to cover the costs of farmers? There are lots of ways to address that issue. Also, some farmers use farmer’s markets as ways to network with restaurant-owners and get subscriptions to CSAs, so it really depends.

One criticism they could have lodged at Salatin and Pollan, but didn’t, is that if you want to get real technical Salatin is a cheater cheater pumpkin eater. Dude only raises breeds of chickens that have been manipulated to mature super quickly. He does not raise a variety of heritage breeds, which technically would be much more “traditional” if you’re talking about really old-school farming. The breed he chose is used specifically because it shortens the timeline for growing and slaughtering the meat, which is very modern and unnatural by Pollan’s standards.

The other thing I hugely disagreed with was their lack of critique of McDonald’s, like they basically acted like it’s a completely fine company, but then they (oven) roasted Whole Foods. They also fundamentally misunderstand the process food scientists go through to create foods for McDonald’s. They both seemed to think that because a burger at McDonald’s is 100% beef it’s essentially the same as what you would make at home, like they directly said that. That is patently untrue. They didn’t mention the term “bliss point” which is used in food science to maximize sensory pleasure via synthetic (natural) flavors, it’s literally done mathematically to make the food as addictive to your brain as possible, like this isn’t hearsay it’s a real thing and it’s why you can’t make homemade food taste like fast food. They also didn’t mention allllll the weird fillers in those foods or how fast food companies disproportionately target low income and minority neighborhoods.

We also know that people (and animals, actually) who eat a diet that’s mostly bliss point lab created foods, actually lose their ability to tolerate the tastes of regular foods. Like, that’s a thing. I find it interesting because it’s a very common thread I see where they’re highly critical of diet culture and quick to call it out (I agree with that, btw!) but then don’t mention the food science or restaurant or packaged food culture which is the other side of the coin IMO- and that industry is faaaaaar bigger, $6.2 trillion just for retail and restaurant food plus an extra $377 billion for packaged food- the highest estimate I’ve ever seen for diet culture is $72 billion— so that feels like a massive oversight BUT I understand why they don’t want to go there and I don’t ever expect them to.

Also, I mean, I don’t shop at Whole Foods either because I think it’s a ripoff and I hate the vibes, and I don’t think it’s a perfect company beyond criticism, but if I had to choose I’d way rather work at Whole Foods than McDonald’s. I know several people without college degrees who started working at Whole Foods because they were one of the first places to offer full benefits to hourly workers, and people who stay there really do get promoted up to white collar jobs; like I’ve seen that happen. That almost never happens at McDonald’s and that company is notorious for giving people (many of whom are racial minorities and/or single moms, etc.) like 34 hours a week so they don’t have to give them benefits. Again, I’m not totally anti-McDonald’s, in some areas that restaurant is the only safe playground available for kids. I also eat fast food! I love fast food, actually.

I just think the different treatment reflects the hosts own biases, which is understandable and true for anyone so I don’t hold it against them really. I notice it in other episodes too, like they are super critical of some medical studies (which say things they disagree with) but then completely believe without digging into other medical studies which support their views. And they’re also very critical of people who are distrustful of medical authorities in general (again usually calling them “libertarian”, lol) but it’s like…isn’t the whole podcast about how this industry is often not to be trusted?

I loved how they called Pollan out on like, going to a fast food place as if it were a safari, and his snobbery in general. I wish they’d mentioned how he straight up STOLE the info on the actual industry (corn subsidies, etc.) from Marion Nestle because that was my first thought reading this book. I also liked that they mentioned his total inaccuracies about food history and how what he’s talking about is essentially an imaginary concept of a farm that never existed. I was also really glad they called him out on lionizing Jefferson because like…dude he had a farm, sure, but SLAVES worked that farm. I mean…wtf.

I was surprised they immediately dismissed the idea of subsidizing produce and meat as something that wouldn’t help though! The costs of doing things the right way is a huge issue and a lot of farmers who did used to have more diverse farms have converted to cash crops only (soy, corn) and I truly don’t think that’s irreversible. I mean how can it be that corn and soy subsidies upped our corn and soy consumption…but that subsidies for fresh produce and meats wouldn’t work at all?? IDK, I disagree with that assumption. I think the subsidies AND the massive amount the food industry contributes to political campaigns is where the real issue lies. And I do think it’s changeable! I mean we could create any system we want, really, there’s no reason we couldn’t have a set of “Takeout” restaurants that are fully subsidized and available only to people on food stamps that offers free or very cheap pre-made takeaway meals. I mean…why not?! Granted the podcast was about critiquing Pollan’s book not brainstorming solutions, but still- I think it hurts progress to totally dismiss a concept without considering alllll the ways it could be implemented.


I love your commentary on podcasts and stuff. It’s very insightful and gives a lot of the info even if I haven’t listened to it.


Aw, thank you!


@admins I tried to flag to be moved, plz move to a thread in pop culture so we can continue the discussion :grin:




Since I used to work on an organic farm run by a food bank and also on several other (berry and apple) farms as a seasonal farm worker, and worked with farmers fighting Monsanto in India, I have a lot of opinions about this episode (and Michael Pollan omg) before even listening based on your commentary allhat. I’ll come back after I’ve had a chance to listen and digest my feelings.

I mean, I know the answer to that from a political perspective but I will say that we have a few of these in my state, we worked hard to get them approved. One is Sisters of the Road and the other is at the food bank I worked for - Food For Lane County Dining room. It took a lot of work to get SNAP to approve that, even in Oregon.


Yeah, as do I. Still, it isn’t a natural impossibility if we were to have more major reform around political contributions (for one) and if we could change attitudes towards poverty a bit more. I think another great idea would be something resembling blue apron for poor people in rural areas. Extensions of programs like Meals on Wheels would be an interesting thing to explore as well, since that’s so successful as a model already. My sense was the hosts dismissed the idea of shifting subsidies (in general) because the source of the suggestion was someone they disagreed with politically, so the whole suggestion was tossed out.

I would love them to do a whole episode on institutional food companies like Aramark. And I was also surprised they didn’t mention Monsanto at all. I thought that was covered in Pollan’s book but I’m not positive because I haven’t read it in years. My husband worked on organic farms and I grew up in a farming area and have done a lot of volunteering on the whole soup kitchen/food bank/meals on wheels side so that’s my background IRL (haha, I feel like I have to prove my resume to stay in the conversation now!) but in general I’ve just always been interested in anything to do with food- recipes, history, food systems, technology, politics, etc.


You don’t have to prove your perspective to stay in the conversation. It is interesting to me how you’ve interacted with our food systems though and that informs your thoughts.

I’m following along quietly because I’ve always just gotten my food from the grocery store. I’m toying with gardening now for fun and a handful of times a year I’ll get maybe 20% of one meal from what we’ve grown. I thought the Pollan book was interesting but had no idea if the other stuff behind it till your original post.


Haha, I was being kind of jokey! :slight_smile: But yeah food has always been a big interest for me. I decided to go vegetarian when I was like 8 or 9 and I was already cooking by then so that kind of started it. I think having people make fun of my food too, without even trying it and just assuming it was disgusting, made me generally interested in food and unafraid of trying new things!

The very first food books I read were mostly animal welfare and health (related to vegetarianism) stuff but then I just kept going! I think Diet for a Small Planet and The Pornography of Meat were some of my earliest reads. Then I came across stuff like Garlic and Sapphires and Marion Nestle’s stuff and found the whole world of journalistic food writing which led me to food history, culinary historians groups, etc. It’s just such an endlessly fascinating topic!


They recently did an episode on Supersize Me, so maybe they thought they’d be retreading a lot of the same ground to go into McD’s in depth.

I particularly liked MP’s episodes on Michael Pollan and Supersize Me, because I consumed those pretty uncritically in the early aughts. I appreciate the opportunity to revisit them with an lens to ableism, classism, and fatphobia without actually having to read/watch them again.


I’m looking forward to both these episodes! I’d stopped listening because a lot was repetitive both in ways I agreed and disagreed. These topics I’d love their take on- and it sounds like I’m. To be shouting “but what about xxxx” a lot.

(I like them I just want to join in)


I listened to that episode! I felt like it was mostly focused on critiquing Morgan Spurlock and the whole premise of the documentary/the fat phobia inherent in the premise and the content. I don’t recall any criticism directed at McD’s, the opposite if anything-- it was a good listen tho!

I think with Michael Pollan the thing that irritates me the most isn’t even his classism or fatphobia (I don’t recall him being ableist or them mentioning that, but totally possible) but also that he’s literally incorrect about a lot of the things he’s saying. And that simultaneously, there are so many really amazing food historians who dedicate their entire lives to the subject and don’t get half the press he got because he already had his NPR connections, etc.

I mean to be fair there are plenty of books with similarly unrealistic pastoral visions of food or unrealistically bleak visions of food and the future. He’s certainly not alone, but I think his connections resulted in his book getting a ton of press and being sort of, uncritically digested.


Haha, that’s how I feel!