It’s a Family Affair: Michael Pollan Celebrates the Release of His New Book

'Cooked' has nuns and cheese

Author Michael Pollan among friends. (Photo: Ken Kurson)

Author Michael Pollan at the Morgan Lehmann Gallery. Ken Kurson

Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked, has just been published, and to celebrate, the rangy, brilliant food writer hosted 100 friends at the Morgan Lehmann Gallery underneath the High Line on West 22nd Street. Why there? So that his guests could be surrounded by the stunning paintings of Judith Belzer—his wife—whose electrifying depictions of cities on top of natural landscapes are actually a perfect fit for what’s happening in Chelsea along our city’s newest park.

In the new book, which tracks the author as he learns to cook, Mr. Pollan makes the case that food preparation lured humanity out of its loneliness. At the party, he credited his wife with doing the same, and also his parents, the writers Stephen and Corky Pollan, for supporting him (and his mom for being a great cook).

The actors Tracy Pollan, who is Michael Pollan's sister, and Frances McDormand discuss the book and enjoy a cocktail.

The actors Tracy Pollan, who is Michael Pollan’s sister, and Frances McDormand discuss the book and enjoy a cocktail. Ken Kurson

The branches continued to spread. The actor Tracy Pollan, Mr. Pollan’s younger sister, was there to show her support, as was her husband, Michael J. Fox. Sister Noella Marcellino, a Benedictine nun and master cheesemaker, who is described in Cooked as “something of a hero to the post-Pasteurians” with her “nun’s habit and a Ph.D. in microbiology,” was also in attendance. When the Transom asked Mr. Fox how he was enjoying the nun’s devastating ricotta with grilled nettles, he answered mid-bite, “It’s really great.” And it was.

Perhaps the most startling revelation of the night, even more than the fact that nuns make cheese and serve it with rabbit, was that Mr. Pollan has been agented and edited by the same two women for his entire career. Binky Urban and Ann Godoff were there to acknowledge that lovely display of loyalty. Bob Silvers, the venerable editor of The New York Review of Books, and the painter Eric Fischl were in the house too, and The New York Times Magazine was well represented by food writer Mark Bittman and Ilena Silverman, who spent some time in the ’90s alongside Mr. Pollan at Harper’s.

Speaking of The New York Times Magazine, another attendee, the actor Frances McDormand, took mercy on Times Mag editor Dean Robinson when she noticed the ludicrous prop-sized cast he was wearing on his leg (he told the Transom he got it playing “ultimate,” whatever that means). With her husband, the director Joel Coen, looking on, Ms. McDormand commented to Mr. Robinson with a simplicity that the Transom could not help hearing as a mix between Abby in Blood Simple (“I ain’t done nothing funny”) and Fargo’s Marge Gunderson (“Sir, you have no call to get snippy with me!). Exclaimed Ms. McDormand: “Ouch.”

It’s a Family Affair: Michael Pollan Celebrates the Release of His New Book