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The Omnivore's Dilemma A Natural History of Four Meals Author:Michael Pollan The bestselling author of The Botany of Desire explores the ecology of eating to unveil why we consume what we consume in the twenty-first century — "What should we have for dinner?" To one degree or another this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma. ... more »Choosing from among the countless potential foods nature offers, humans have had to learn what is safe, and what isn't-which mushrooms should be avoided, for example, and which berries we can enjoy. Today, as America confronts what can only be described as a national eating disorder, the omnivore's dilemma has returned with an atavistic vengeance. The cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet has thrown us back on a bewildering landscape where we once again have to worry about which of those tasty-looking morsels might kill us. At the same time we're realizing that our food choices also have profound implications for the health of our environment. The Omnivore's Dilemma is bestselling author Michael Pollan's brilliant and eye-opening exploration of these little-known but vitally important dimensions of eating in America.
Pollan has divided The Omnivore's Dilemma into three parts, one for each of the food chains that sustain us: industrialized food, alternative or "organic" food, and food people obtain by dint of their own hunting, gathering, or gardening. Pollan follows each food chain literally from the ground up to the table, emphasizing our dynamic coevolutionary relationship with the species we depend on. He concludes each section by sitting down to a meal--at McDonald's, at home with his family sharing a dinner from Whole Foods, and in a revolutionary "beyond organic" farm in Virginia. For each meal he traces the provenance of everything consumed, revealing the hidden components we unwittingly ingest and explaining how our taste for particular foods reflects our environmental and biological inheritance.
We are indeed what we eat-and what we eat remakes the world. A society of voracious and increasingly confused omnivores, we are just beginning to recognize the profound consequences of the simplest everyday food choices, both for ourselves and for the natural world. The Omnivore's Dilemma is a long-overdue book and one that will become known for bringing a completely fresh perspective to a question as ordinary and yet momentous as What shall we have for dinner?« less
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This is a book everyone should read. Eating is nutritional, is political, is global and we should never be ignorant about how we nourish our bodies. Pollan has provided a great assessment of modern eating.
This is a fascinating account of the origins of three types of meals - a fast food meal, an organic meal, and one composed of foods hunted and gathered by the author. This book could almost be seen as a sequel to Fast Food Nation: it is similar in format and both books are very readable. However, after reading this book you will feel guilty not only about eating Chicken McNuggets (who really believed that spongy white filling was chicken anyway?) but also about buying organic South American asparagus from Whole Foods and eggs from supposedly free range chickens at Safeway.
Unfortunately, not all of us have the luxury of being a published author, so that we can forage for morels, hunt wild boar, and capture yeast from the air around our neighborhoods in order to spend multiple days preparing slow food meals for our friends. Indeed, this type of elitism and the fact that foods obtained from sustainable farming sources are not affordable to many may turn some readers off to this book. That is unfortunate, because I don't think the author intends to imply that people are good or bad for eating a certain way - in my opinion, this book is more a call to THINK about what you eat, and make choices that you are comfortable with when you can.
Even if all of us only occasionally bought locally grown products from sustainable farms it would make a big difference... and I think that is what the author is trying to say. Make whatever choices you like, but at least make them informed choices.
Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
Anna B. (apb3000) reviewed The Omnivore's Dilemma : A Natural History of Four Meals on
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A brilliant and important book, which despite its weightiness, is very readable - Pollan as narrator is open, likeable, and never condescending. Every American ought to read this book...it's the first step toward reform of the fast-failing agricultural system in this country.
The first sections offers excellent insight into the origins of the food in the supermarket and how corn rose to become the basis for almost everything there. Section two details how industrialized agriculture works and why you might not want to eat the product, and contrasts that with the humane conditions and transparent slaughter performed on Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm, where the author stays for a brief time learning the ropes. The section also contains information on the coopting of the organic movement by agribusiness, and the conclusion that buying local from a farmer you know and whose farm you can inspect is the best option. Section three follows Pollan on an adventure in procuring his own "foraged" meal consisting of a boar he has hunted, mushrooms he has found, and vegetables he has grown himself. Interspersed with these stories is some in depth philosophy about making eating choices (including vegetarianism, which the author experiments with briefly), which makes the section worthwhile. Altogether an excellent book which I recommend to anyone who eats.