Young and Hungry

The Botany of Desire: The PBS Special on Pollan’s Book

Before Michael Pollan became America's conscience on food — suggesting that we, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." — he was our tour guide into the complicated relationship between humans and plants.

The Botany of Desire is still my favorite work by Pollan. It's that rare book that combines original thinking and reporting with some sly lyrical humor. Consider this passage on the humble apple and its hard cider:

"There was an old tradition in northern Europe linking the grape, which flourished all through Latin Christendom, with the corruptions of the Catholic Church, while casting the apple as the wholesome fruit of Prostestantism. Wine figured in the Eucharist; also, the Old Testament warned against the temptations of the grape. But the Bible didn't have a bad word to say about the apple or even the strong drink that could be made from it. Even the most God-fearing Puritan could persuade himself that cider had been given a theological free pass.

Now comes the welcome news that PBS, some eight years after The Botany of Desire's publication, is turning it into a special narrated by Frances McDormand. Pollan himself will be featured in the documentary that shows how plants — specifically, the apple, tulip, marijuana, and potato — control us as much as we control them.

It premieres at 8 p.m. on October 28.

...