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.
A book that will make you rethink about how, where, why, when, and what you are eating. If you're curious about where your food comes from, the connection of our food to place and our lives; then you must read "The Omnivore's Dilemma". It will change your thought about how we, as Americans, feed ourselves.
omg. i had such a hard time getting through this. its interesting, but it read like a textbook. i kept debating just putting it down and moving on, but i forced myself to get through it, and am glad i did.
the book is split into three parts- or three meals. the first part is about how corn is in pretty much everything we eat. it talks about the price of corn- in terms of farming, gasoline and animals. the authors meal to represent this was fast food. gross.
the second part is about grass and the role grass plays in our meals. theres a lot of debates on what organic really is and the author lives on a fram for a week, where his meal is completely provided for by the farm.
the third part was my favorite. it was about huntering and gathering. everything the author ate had to come from something he hunted, gathered, forged. he included debates on vegetarianism and veganism, killing animals for food versus pleaseure, etc.
id recommend it to someone whos interested in the topic. its not a quick exciting read, but has a lot of great information. there were pages i skipped over because it got too technical, but i did come away from it better educated. and weve started buying from local farmers (or so they say!)
Anna B. (apb3000) reviewed The Omnivore's Dilemma : A Natural History of Four Meals on
Helpful Score: 5
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.
It's wise to be an informed consumer, but for me Pollan's book did not provide much help in achieving that end. He waxes eloquent about the pastoral food chain and his hunter-gatherer adventures, but most average consumers don't have the time or money (or the inclination) to follow his example. Shopping, cooking, and eating as he presents them are not about learning and making decisions; they are instead political statements, and only those who agree with his conclusions can claim the high moral ground.
Interesting book - sort of 4 short books in one, loosely related, all pretty thought provoking. His discussion of "4 meals" I really didn't follow, other than the first and the last. In each section the author interviews one farmer/provider in that particular branch, and then goes from there. I'm not sure that I'd agree with the posted description that it "gives a portrait of the American way of eating", but it does follow the food chain for certain meals, including one where he did the actual hunting (of a wild pig) and gathering (of mushrooms).
Good to eat and good to think. One man's journey from ignorance to enlightenment revolving around the dinner table. Learning to hunt/forage for a complete meal and comparing the work involved to the ignorance of commercial agriculture and fast food. An educational read for the self-sustaining enthusiast. This book does not come with recipes.
Fascinating book. Ever since my children were born and I started worrying more about what kind of nutrition they were getting, and so issues revolving around food have been percolating in the back of my mind for some time.
In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan traces the origins of four different meals back to their source in sunlight: a typical McDonald's meal eaten in a moving car, an "organic" meal with items from a Whole Foods market, a "more-than-organic" meal comprised mainly from items from a starts-from-grass farm in Virginia, and finally, a meal made from items hunted & foraged by Pollan himself in Northern California.
And it's fascinating. You might think that Pollan approaches his topic from an "industry is evil!" frame of mind, but he really keeps that in check, maintaining a journalist's detachment from bias reasonably well. Having said that, the grass-fed farm clearly has Pollan's favor, and it's hard to deny his arguments.
The book is written with a first-person perspective throughout, as Pollan explores the questions he has. This really keeps the narrative flowing, and makes the book a joy to read, as the reader experiences Pollan's discoveries as he himself does. It keeps the book from feeling like a dry textbook, for sure.
Will any of this change the way I eat? That's hard to know. I'd like to think it will, but convenience and economics are hard to argue against, and eating "better" will likely be a never-ending challenge. But having better knowledge of what goes into what I buy (and what I eat) will flavor my purchasing habits into the future.
The Omnivore's Dilemma changed the way I view food: rather than merely nourishment on a plate, Pollan gave me a better sense of its origins and deep connection to nature. The dilemma in the title refers to what we should eat, given that as omnivores humans can eat almost anything. The book is organized in three parts, to explore the different approaches to this question, and each section is paired with a meal. From industrial agriculture to organic (large or small scale) to personal foraging, Pollan relates his in-depth exploration of each food system. Whether in the corn fields of Iowa, a self-sustaining organic "grass farm" in Virgina, or the forests of Northern California, I enjoyed Pollan's adventures in tracing our complex food chains because he writes with wit and insight. I felt this book empowered me as an eater by pointing out the connections between what we choose to eat and how our society and landscapes are organized.
Becky G. (JustBec) reviewed The Omnivore's Dilemma : A Natural History of Four Meals on
Helpful Score: 2
Great book that sheds a lot of light on the industrial food chain and really encourages people to think about what they're eating and where it comes from. It even had me questioning if I wanted to remain a vegetarian, which is kind of earth shattering for me.
Another Scare tactic book to try to make us afraid to eat anything. I didn't finish it. I'm not into this stuff. I eat very healthily. A friend of mine who loves this hyped up kind of stuff told me I should read it that it was an excellent book. Well, I eat better than she does and I don't need to read a book that tries to scare me about every aspect of modern food.
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.
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan is a very informative book about our modern industrial food chain. Pollan packs an incredible amount of information from a wide variety of modern and historical sources into this book and also poses many questions. He seeks answers to those questions from an anthropologist's point-of-view and delivers it all with a very pleasant writing style. He very thoroughly explains everything which I appreciate though I know it may bother some readers. He writes with a great sense of humor, is not at all preachy, and makes the reader feel like a companion during his travels across America to discover how we eat and what we should eat. I found it surprisingly eye-opening.
What did I think? I think that the U.S. -- basically the entire world -- is screwed. Our food chain is so unsustainable and unhealthy that if something doesn't change soon, it's bound to fall apart. I knew that before reading this book, but Pollan's hands-on research and writing style present the facts and the argument for slow-food in a very clear and readable way. Local, seasonal food is the way to go, but with our cultural focus on and our government's obvious support of quick, easy and cheap, that will not be the mainstream any time soon, probably not until our entire system falls apart.
The four meals Pollan prepares during the course of the book are a McDonald's meal featuring corn, corn and more corn in various forms (which is why we are completely screwed), an "organic" meal of ingredients from Whole Foods (which is better, but not as much better as you would probably think), a "slow food" meal made mostly from food grown at a farm where Pollan worked for a week, and a meal that he grew/foraged/hunted himself. He argues (and I agree) that there's a growing subculture moving in that direction, with farmers markets increasing every year, more urban homesteading, and a greater focus on local, seasonal food, etc. I just don't think that movement is growing fast enough or significantly enough to counteract the economic, environmental and health impacts of the corn- and soy-fueled food chain that currently rules the land. I hate to be so pessimistic, but without a complete reversal of the current food system (which would take either a food revolution or an overthrow of the USDA), we're screwed. (Yes, I know I've now said that three times, but it's less offensive than the word I really want to use.)
I really enjoy Pollan's writing style -- mixing facts, personal experiences and humor together -- but as in The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, he tends to be a little long-winded. Especially during the last section/meal, in which Pollan learns to hunt and forage to create "the perfect meal," I got bored. Probably because I have no interest in hunting (I'd revert to vegetarianism first) and very little in gathering mushrooms, I found myself skimming though much of this last section.
I liked the beginning, learning a lot. I didn't like the middle, hard to stay with it and get through it. I liked the end. Other books on this topic, which I am interested in are more interesting. I liked Animal, Veg, Miracle better. Wouldn't recommend it.
I found the first third of this book fascinating. I had not known how much of our food system is based on corn, and was amazed at the description of the feed lots. The author has a sense of humor that comes through the well researched facts he presents. However by the middle to end of the book, the facts and details become overwhelming. If you are interested in food and the local food movement, you'll like this book. Otherwise, read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver.
Unfortunately, by the end of this book my response to "Whats for dinner?" was "Who cares."
Amy M. reviewed The Omnivore's Dilemma : A Natural History of Four Meals on
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who eats food! The information about food production in the United States is well-researched, entertaining and highly disturbing. Stripping away 19th century notions of how food arrives at our table and the role government has played in facilitating big business' takeover of this industry are key themes of this thoughtful book. Micheal Pollan encourages us all to take responsibility for knowing what we are eating. In the long run, this is better for our economy and for the environment as well as just plain better for our health. There are small steps to be taken by individuals and we can also demand more of our government. Read this book-you will enjoy it and learn something!
Jennifer S. (jayle) reviewed The Omnivore's Dilemma : A Natural History of Four Meals on
I agree with other reviewers that it can feel a little text-booky at times...however, I LOVED THIS BOOK. I nearly drove my family crazy citing the ills of how corn has taken over our food supply...I was amazed at how out-of-touch most of us are with how our food actually gets to our table.
I appreciated that Michael Pollan didn't come across as preachy or self-righteous and isn't an extremist in regards to vegetarianism/veganism. Rather, I felt like he was documenting his own journey of discovery and inviting the reader to do the same.
It is really eye-opening. I think it is a must-read for anyone wanting to be more conscious and intentional about something we all do everyday - EAT.
What a great read for people who care about food and health! Not a "light", fun read by any measure, Pollan takes his research and writing very seriously. You travel with him virtually on the journey the things we eat take before they get to our stores. Michael does a remarkable job finding out about many different sides of the food chain, and presenting a "decide for yourself" format once the facts have been laid out. I am following up on many different people, places, and things I read in the book. A big thanks to the author!
An incredibly well-written interesting look at four completely different meals from field to table (or car in one case). If you have any interest (or apprehension) about what you are eating this is a must read.