We have indeed entered the era of the celebrity farmer. But all over the country, small farmers -- some of whom have been at it for decades with scant recognition -- are finding themselves catapulted to rock-star status.
Not only is there major disagreement over the amount (and type) of protein we should be eating, but there's wild disagreement over the role of fat, the importance of carbs, the value of exercise, the need for calorie counting, and just about anything else you can think of.
It's getting on to harvest at Winterhaven Ranch, but the fields are not green. They're brown. This is actually a good thing. Nielsen is a desert farmer. For almost 30 years, he's been growing Medjool dates in Bard Valley, California.
Any intellectual seeking to build a balanced larder of knowledge would do well to embrace their inner Roman emperor, and familiarize themselves with food and the art of cooking -- even if their own culinary attempts go up in smoke a disconcerting amount of the time.
Farro, chicken, kale and sheep's milk cheese. These are the foodstuffs (one item from each food group) that Michael Pollan would take to a desert island to eat in perpetuity, were he to find himself regrettably, but unavoidably, marooned.
There is an intrinsic problem with measuring the quality of a system by how well it conforms to what you already believe. Such a system gets bonus points for agreeing with you -- even when you are wrong.
It's not Thomas Keller's responsibility to help save the planet (though many chefs have taken on this calling with great ambition). But focusing solely on the aesthetics and disclaiming any other responsibility altogether is a cop-out.
Eating some meat, preferably from lean, well-fed, well-exercised, and kindly tended animals is assuredly consistent with human health. But the health of humans and the planet argue consistently for Michael Pollan's excellent and pithy advice: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
The religious overlay that nutrition has taken on is neither holy nor wholesome. It precludes us from breaking bread together. It forestalls the public health progress that could occur if we could all find a seat at a common table.
I won't speak for my friends and colleagues in public health, although I suspect they feel the same; I'll just speak for myself. I am nobody's nanny. But as you play with the military-industrial establishment with your health on the line, I don't mind being a referee.
Pollan's collection of rules keeps it simple: No medical or calorie counting rules (don't people get tired of counting calories?). And my favorite rule is the super simple number 24: When you eat real food, you don't need rules.