Terra Sigillata

(This is a repost from 4 June that was supposed to have been here for our launch on Sb – Ewen Callaway’s interview with Michael Pollan is definitely worthy of a wider audience)


Here a belated plug to my Colorado compatriot, hard-working microbiologist, and real-life journalist, Ewen, at his microbiology/infectious diseases blog, Complex Medium.

If you’re a fan of Michael Pollan from reading The Botany of Desire or have been thinking about buying his new book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, take 28 minutes and listen to Ewen’s interview with Pollan on one of nation’s best public radio stations, KGNU of Boulder, Colorado. (Go to Ewen’s post to access the interview from the KNGU archives.)

Michael Pollan has a tremendously engaging talent for examining the relationships between science, particularly food science and agriculture, and everything from anthropology to big business. The guy can make watching paint dry seem like a life-changing experience. I had read some of the content of the interview from a Pollan excerpt in Mother Jones and it’s interesting to hear him discuss in his own voice his working and living on a true organic farm in Virginia.

In The Botany of Desire, Pollan explores four plants (apple trees, tulips, potatoes, and marijuana) to discuss whether we have manipulated the plants or vice versa. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he takes the same approach to four meals and interrogates the big business of industrial agriculture and the dichotomy of “industrial organic” commerce.

I have yet to read the complete new book, but listening to Ewen’s interview with Pollan gives one a good flavor for the stories and the author’s approach. Ewen takes the approach of letting Pollan tell the stories, rather than jump in evey minute as does Terry Gross. (Addendum: Ewen noted in the comments on old Terra Sig that his reserve had more to do with using a single field mic for both of them.)

This coming Fall, Ewen is hanging up his pipetmen and heading to UC-Santa Cruz to enter their science writing program. But we all hope that he keeps Complex Medium rolling along. We launched our blogs within two weeks of one another and I really appreciate the perspective he brings to the sci/medblogging world.

When you’re reading the Wall Street Journal Health Journal section or listening to a national NPR program in a couple of years, remember the name: Ewen Callaway.