The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan writes about food. I love food. I wasn’t as huge a fan of In Defense of Food because I felt it more opinion than research and it was the research and story-telling factor of The Omnivore’s Dilemma that so enthralled me. In The Botany of Desire he again tells the story of food in an engaging and contemporary way.

Pollan chooses four foods to represent or tie to four human desires: the apple for sweetness, the potato for control, the tulip for beauty and cannabis for intoxication. As he tells the history of each plant, he ties in contemporary thoughts about how we treat the earth, ourselves, and each other and why we behave the way we do. It’s pure conjecture but it’s thought provoking, funny sometimes, interesting all the time, and altogether the kind of book I love to read.

One of these days I’ll live somewhere with enough space to grow my own food. It’ll probably be in Eastern Washington, somewhere quiet where people won’t pester me, but close enough to some kind of city center that I can find friends and food without too much trouble. When I’m out on my plot, sifting through dirt for little potatoes and picking spitters to make into cider, I’ll think of this book and smile to myself about the stories he shares of crazy but kind John Chapman who preceded westward expansion planting apple trees, the tulipomania of Holland that caused an economic crisis, the gentry’s ancient and the McDonalds fry eaters current distaste for a deformed potato, and the mind altering, healing powers of a good old fashioned doobie.

I’m happy to lend it out if you’d like to share my smile.