Food, Home & Lifestyle, Wellness

Celebrate the Communal Meal

Michael Pollan

Lesson time 08:18 min

Michael shares his view on the power of communal meals, and he urges you to embrace the ways eating can bring people together.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: The Family Meal Is Under Attack • Reclaim Your Humanity


[MUSIC PLAYING] - In this lesson, what we're going to learn, what I really want to stress to you, is the importance of meals. The meal is an endangered institution and I want to tell you why that matters. So when I was growing up, we had family dinner like five or six nights a week. You know, it wasn't always all sweetness and light. Sometimes family meals can be painful. I had three little sisters and we would argue a lot, but my mother took it really seriously and I loved her cooking. I'd look forward to that time of the day. I still do. And I believe very important things happen at the dinner table. I believe it's really the hearth of family life and it is where we teach our children how to share, how to argue without fighting, how to take turns. So that institution, I think-- this sounds overstated-- I think it's an institution of democracy, the family dinner, and I think it really is the nursery of democracy. It's where we teach those Democratic values. And guess what? At the same time, the family meal is in decline so is our democracy. Many of us spend more time snacking than we do eating meals at a table. So the meal is in trouble and the meal is under attack, basically, from the food industry's push to get us to eat at every other conceivable time besides breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There's a bond that's created when we share food and we're losing that as we segment the market into the different members of the family. [MUSIC PLAYING] There are products designed for 15-year-old girls. There are products for mom, products for dad. Every member of the family is eating something different at a slightly different time. The daughter's coming in to have frozen dinner defrosted, the son's got his pizza that he's defrosting, and they're kind of passing in the night and this is called a family meal. So that fragmentation of family meal I think has been really destructive. And I get why the industry, the food industry, would like us to stop eating meals. They make more money if they can market to every individual separately. They don't want us to eat the same thing at the same time. They would be much happier if we ate individual portions of microwavable food at our own pace and schedule, but we have to resist this because it's really destructive. We forget sometimes when we're dealing with intentional eating that it's not just about us. That one of the great things about food, at least if you're a human and not another animal, is that we share it. We feed other people as well as ourselves and that eating is a communal experience at its best and most pleasurable. And one way to do that, to embody that idea, is to invite people over and cook for them. To me, one of the great pleasures of life is to get a group of friends together and mix them up and maybe have someone over you've never had over before and prepare a meal. It's the most generous, loving thing you can do. And yeah, it's work, and you'll have ...

About the Instructor

For more than 30 years, award-winning journalist Michael Pollan has explored the intersection of humans and nature—including groundbreaking probes of the food we eat. Now the NYT bestselling author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” teaches you how to ditch fad diets and eat with intention. From following the food chain to fixing dinner, learn to make choices that reflect what’s important to you.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Michael Pollan

Acclaimed author Michael Pollan teaches you what he’s spent decades researching: how to eat more ethically, healthfully, and sustainably.

Explore the Class
Sign Up