Monday, October 16, 2006

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - Michael Pollan

The Basics: The Omnivores Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan, 2006

How I found it: I was buying Leave No Crumbs on and I needed another book to boost my total high enough to get free shipping. I discovered this in the new non-fiction section and it looked good. Unfortunately due to a backlog of library books, it's been neglected for a few months but I finally got around to reading it.

What's it about?: Pollan follows the path of four very different meals from their very beginning as they are grown to the end of the line where they are eaten. The four different meals are an industrialized agriculture meal, an industrialized organic agricultural meal, a "beyond organic"/sustainable organic meal, and a foraged/hunted meal. Along the way he explains how our culture and way of eating have changed agriculture, etc.

Did I like it?: I love this book. It was fascinating. For example, did you know that most of a processed food meal consists of corn? The meat you eat was fed corn, there is corn meal and corn starch holding it together, the sweetener in your pop is corn syrup... it's all corn! As well, did you know that cows can't actually digest corn properly? It's too acidic for their special stomachs and if they eat it for too long it will eat through the side of their stomach. That's why they are only kept on the feed lot for a limited amount of time. There are all kinds of interesting facts like these in the book, and more besides. The author also does a great job of examining the ethics behind what he eats. The discussion of industrialized organic vs. sustainable organic is really informative and interesting too, especially as it pertains to meat.

Will you like it?: If you care at all about what you put in your body, this is a great book to read. It is much more interesting and informative than Fast Food Nation as it presents a much more balanced view of things. I thought I already knew quite a bit about food production, but this book really opened my eyes to much more.

But don't take my word for it: Readers on seem to like it, the New York Times reviewer liked it (mostly), as did the one from the Washington Post, a review from the environmentalist website and an open letter to Michael Pollan from Whole Foods criticizing his coverage of their industrial organic supermarket model.

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