“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”

Dear Readers, I commend to you a book entitled The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals written by Michael Pollan.  It was listed as one of the 10 best book of the year in The New York Times Book Review.

On the back cover, the small taste tester says the following:

“Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from what can only be described as a national eating disorder.  Will it be fast food tonight, or something organic?  Or perhaps something we grew ourselves?  The question of what to have for dinner has confronted us since man discovered fire.  But as Michael Pollan explains in this revolutionary book, how we answer it now, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, may determine our survival as a species.  Packed with profound surprises, The Omnivores Dilemma is changing the ay Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.

Pollan writes about his experiences of following food from the point of birth (beef or chicken) or growth (veggie or fungi) to the point of serving it to dinner guests.  He purchases a steer and follows it from its birth to the slaughter house.  The same with corn.  He goes so far as to forage for food (hunting wild pig, digging up wild mushrooms, and capturing ‘yeast’ from the San Francisco air to make bread) to prepare a meal for 10 dinner guests.  Pollan writes, “…what I was really after in taking up hunting and gathering:  to see what it’d be like to prepare and eat a meal in full consciousness of what was involved” (p 281).  

Pollan writes, “My wager in undertaking this experiment is that hunting and gathering (and growing) a meal would perforce teach me things about the ecology and ethics of eating that I could not get in a supermarket or fast-food chain or even on a farm.  Some very basic things:  about the ties between us and the species (and natural systems) we depend upon; about how we decide what in nature is good to eat and what is not; and about how the human body fits into the food chain, not only as an eater but as a hunter and, yes, a killer of other creatures” (p 281).

What I found most informative was learning how much crap (literally and figuratively) is in the beef we eat.  The machinations that the beef producer goes through to ensure that the steer is kept healthy in its unnatural habitat, eating its unnatural corn based meal are beyond imagination.  We eat more antibiotics than we realize when we slice into that mouth watering grilled sirloin. 

I also learned why soy and corn is in every blessed thing we eat and how it contributes to the epidemic of obesity in our nation.  It really was a fascinating book, which I did not anticipate.  Read it.  You’ll see why.


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