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Corky Pollan’s Plant-Based Life

Of all the books we have read about food and diet, there is one philosophy that we have always held on to: Michael Pollan’s “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

It turns out that way of eating is something Michael learned from his mother, Corky Pollan. Back in the ’70s and ’80s when people predominately got their vegetables from cans and no one had heard of quinoa, Corky was incorporating fresh vegetables and whole grains into her family’s meals. Corky says, “My father was in the produce business, so I was exposed to a wide variety of vegetables at an early age. When my friends’ mothers were making them frozen peas and carrots, I was dining on fresh artichokes and asparagus.”

It was only natural that Corky would write a cookbook, along with her daughters, Dana, Tracy, and Lori. Mostly Plants is the second cookbook the Pollan women have worked on together (the first was The Pollan Family Table), and they are excited to share their plant-based family recipes (like crispy kimchi and scallion pancakes) with anyone who wants to eat less animal products.

Lori says, “We wanted to illustrate that a meal doesn’t always need to include meat to be complete. Plants, whole grains, and legumes can be just as satiating, with more health benefits and fewer calories.” 

Food Equals Connection

For the Pollan family, food has always been synonymous with connection. Dinnertime was a chance for the whole family to gather. “Corky prepared these amazing meals for us where we could sit around the table together, eat and talk about our days,” Dana says. Many of her most vivid childhood memories revolve around meals. 

“We grew up going to Martha’s Vineyard every summer. Corky’s tuna burgers and seafood paella bring back those great family times to me,” Tracy recalls. 

From the time they were young, the kids had a place in the Pollan family kitchen. Corky went back to school and then to work at New York Magazine and later as style director for Gourmet magazine. To get dinner on the table, she needed her children to assist in food prep. Lori says, “Making a meal with my mom never seemed like a chore to us; we were excited to be included.”

“I always felt it was a great honor to be asked to help in the kitchen. It meant my mother trusted me,” Tracy says.

Mostly Plants cover

And now that the girls are grown, they use that same tactic of getting the family to pitch in at mealtime. “It’s stressful when you ask your family, ‘What do you want for dinner?’ and they answer, ‘Anything is fine,’” Tracy says. “I’d rather they just tell me what they want because thinking of what to make can be the hardest part of cooking.”

“If you have a kitchen that is warm and fun, people are drawn to it, and it’s fun to cook together,” Lori says. It is also less expensive and healthier, since you know what ingredients you are using and eating.

The Pollans enjoyed working on new recipes for the book together, and their families were happy to pitch in by eating and giving opinions. They hope that the book will appeal to home chefs who want to embrace plant-based eating. 

Corky says, “Some people find the idea of being a strict vegetarian overwhelming, but they do want to add more produce and legumes to their diet. These recipes will enable them to do just that.”

To purchase Mostly Plants, go to amazon.com. To subscribe to the Pollan Family Table newsletter, go to pollanfamilytable.com.

Photo: Nicole Franzen; courtesy of the publisher

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