Reality Bites 

Cheap food ... isn't

THU 11/20

In his best-selling book The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan probed the complex relationships between humans and plants. These relationships, he posits, work both ways: We want certain plants -- the four featured in his book are apples, tulips, potatoes, and pot -- and in their own way they want us to want them, because the greater our demand, the better their chances of survival. A Borders Original Voice Award-winner now teaching at UC Berkeley's School of Journalism, Pollan shines an eerie light on modern eating at the Berkeley Rep (2025 Addison St., Berkeley), Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by Oakland's independent Park Day School, the event features a lecture on what Pollan calls "the high price of cheap food," followed by a discussion between the author and Cal grad Patricia Unterman, a veteran local restaurant critic and chef/co-owner of San Francisco's Hayes Street Grill.

Now that three out of every five Americans are overweight and researchers are predicting that today's plump kids will have a shorter lifespan than their parents, Pollan has been paying close attention to the so-called obesity epidemic and what he calls "the cause behind the causes." As he wrote recently in The New York Times Magazine, to which he is a frequent contributor, "When food is abundant and cheap, people will eat more of it and get fat."

Sure, the trouble is extra calories -- a supersized McDonald's meal racks up some 1,550, and a standard bottle of Coke has grown from 8 ounces to 20 in the last thirty years -- but how, Pollan wonders, have we suddenly found ourselves surrounded with such a surfeit of them?

Behind the simple, surface-level arithmetic lie sinister culprits: politics, policies, and supercheap American corn. From corn comes corn syrup and cheaply corn-fed meat. Subsidized overproduction on the farm leads to affordable gorging, and Pollan is eager not to let anyone, especially our government, off the hook.

Tickets for the lecture and discussion are $15 each ($8 for students with ID) and are available by calling 510-653-0317. Pollan will also appear at an intimate reception prior to the event, for which tickets are $65 and limited to thirty guests.

The reception includes gourmet food, wine, and priority seating at the lecture and discussion. -- Anneli Rufus

SAT 11/22

Hard Stuff

Alloys in Alameda

Saturday night, Rooster's Roadhouse (1700 Clement Ave., Alameda) offers up a hard, metal plate of juicy originals and spike-festooned tributes starting at 6 p.m. Blitzenhammer, Osmium (named for the heaviest metal known -- yes!!), and Diferential serve up the former. The tribute acts are a varied lot, with Damage INC covering early Metallica, Children of the Damned honoring Iron Maiden, and our personal favorite, BON/DED, a tribute to Bon Scott-era AC/DC. The show is eighteen-and-up and costs $10 at the door. -- Stefanie Kalem

11/21-11/23

Shop at Home

When Deb Maselli and Marcy Frank decide to cut out the middleman, they don't mess around. The pair's Winter Artisan Market allows the artists involved to sell directly to customers without the intervention of shop or gallery, and the event will take place in Maselli's home (8023 Kelok Way, Clayton), keeping costs even lower. Frank, of Ginger Blossom Designs, and Maselli, of Tulips in Winter, join seven other East Bay craftspeople to offer blown and fused glass, jewelry, refashioned vintage textiles, photography, glass and wire sculpture, garden plaques, and more. The market, which the pair hopes to hold quarterly, takes place on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Info: 510-547-6707. -- Stefanie Kalem

11/23-2/15

Floating World

Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds consists of giant, shiny silver, helium-filled pillows. Attempting to Deal with Time and Space by Annika von Hauswolff employs an inflated, huggable plastic balloon. What's the common denominator of the artworks in Thin Skin? Find out at Walnut Creek's Bedford Gallery (1601 Civic Dr., 925-295-1417), where the traveling exhibition of "bubbles, spheres, and inflatable structures" by Independent Curators International is on display from Sunday. BedfordGallery.org -- Kelly Vance

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