Michael Pollan knows the rules of the potluck.
Although he is the featured speaker at tonight’s Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard potluck dinner in West Tisbury, the New York Times bestselling author will be bringing the requisite dish to share. “I’m singing for my supper,” he said from his Aquinnah home.
“I’m going to make a corn salad using roasted corn from Morning Glory. I’m going to grill the corn, just brown it, then you let it cool and cut it off the cobs. I’ll combine it in a bowl with Morning Glory red onions, cucumbers and mint and a light vinaigrette.”
Mr. Pollan also plans to bring his own plate, another rule of tonight’s celebration of things grown locally and eaten slowly, together.
The dish is one of his favorites this time of year. “Everybody likes corn. It’s seasonal, it’s of the moment. And with this recipe, you can feed a lot,” he said.
Mr. Pollan first came to the Vineyard at the age of six, before omnivores had a dilemma or food needed defending.
“This was 1961. No one had ever heard of Martha’s Vineyard,” he said. “My mother read about it and we came down and rented a house in Chilmark.” He’s been coming every summer since, though now he calls the San Francisco bay area home.
“One of the most exciting things happening on this Island is the rise of the local food economy,” said the writer whose work focuses on food, agriculture and other ares where the human and natural worlds intersect. “The work being done here really is an important model for the country. There’s sort of a national audience that descends here every season and farmers here have the opportunity to have the eyes of the nation on what they do.”
And so tonight, Mr. Pollan will cook corn grown the Island way. It is a vegetable which has received a bad rap in his books. “In Omnivore’s Dilemma, the whole first third of that book is looking at the role of corn in our food system,” he said listing off the things it is found in, from high fructose corn syrup to mass-produced chicken nuggets. “So I’ve done a fair amount of demonizing of corn in our food system, but I was not talking about sweet corn,” he continued, defending the ears he bought at Morning Glory today. “I was talking about number two commodity corn, which is really an industrial crop.”
The differences between the two are found as much in the way the crops are grown — one mass-produced year-round, the other grown in-season and, in this case, on a family farm — as in the taste.
“I always love the Vineyard corn. The corn we get in California is nowhere near as good as the corn we get in New England,” he said. “The whole New England idea that you harvest it the day you’re going to eat it, you just don’t find that out West.”
In Defense of Food: a potluck dinner and talk with author Michael Pollan and Martha’s Vineyard Slow Food begins at 6 p.m. tonight at the agricultural hall in West Tisbury. Please bring a dish made with a local ingredient to share for six and a place setting. Cost is $15, $5 for members and students.