I just finished Farmer and Chief: Michael Pollan’s piece in Sunday’s New York Times. In a letter to the future president, Pollan makes recommendations on how to transform our toxic food production system into a tastier, healthier, and more environmentally sustainable system. Pollan’s in-depth knowledge of food policy is impressive, and Farmer and Chief is well written and thoroughly researched. If you have seven hours (it’s a long ass piece), you should read it.
My only critique is that Pollan joins a chorus of voices who perpetuate the idea that arugula personifies elitism. One of Pollan suggestions, perhaps his only fluffy idea among many serious (and complicated) proposals, is for the president to “model behavior” by planting a garden at the White House. As a side note, it would be seriously fun to turn that lush lawn into into patches of pumpkins and zucchini. There would be fig trees and presidential eggplants too! And with a twelve-foot iron gate and ten sharp shooters on the roof, theft would be minimal. Food not lawns! I was just about to give Pollan a high five (even though he doesn't seem like a high five kind of guy) when he advises the president elect to plant iceberg instead of arugula to avoid any political problems. You know, because everyone thinks arugula is a snob that looks down on people. It's pronounced ah-ROO-guh-lah. I think Pollan was making an attempt to be snarky. Even so, it highlighted the absurd notion that people associate arugula with elitism.
Why does arugula have such a pretentious rap? Remember when Republicans mocked Obama for asking farmers about arugula in Iowa? Elitist! They cried.
Here at the arugula files we resent and repudiate these characterizations. Arugula is for the people! Sure, its green peppery leaves operate at a higher level than its bland cousins iceberg or romaine, but arugula is no prima donna. Certainly if we are pointing fingers at elitists, we should be aiming in the direction of dandelion greens or watercress. Arugula’s versatility makes it everyday food: put it on pizza, in pasta, or on garlic bread. Have you ever tried iceberg pesto? I didn’t think so. And do I have to remind you that when spinach got sally-monella, arugula was there for you? When Obama gets elected (HAVE YOU SEEN THE POLLS, PEOPLE?) I think he should rip up the White House lawn and plant rows and rows of my favorite green.
P.S., You really should read Farmer and Chief.