Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Omnivore's Dilemma The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
While I want to buy this book I'm scared to.

Pollan's _The Omnivore's Dilemma_ is an informative and thoughtful reflection on food and where it comes from in our modern culture. Pollan splices journalistic accounts of his own experiences buying food, working on a farm, hunting and gathering and buying a cow with countless other sources to help credit his arguments and with historical information about food to inform us of the four meals possible in our culture: the processed, organic, grass-fed, and hunted/gathered.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the processed, organic, and grass-fed sections, I wasn't as much of a fan of the hunted/gathered section. This particular section seemed a bit over the top for me, especially as a wife of a hunter and fisherman. I've become accustomed to seeing my meal in its dead form as well as in the necessary butchering stage so it can be eaten and discussing it during the meal in terms of the exact hunt, location, weather, circumstances related to the specific day that meal was caught. So when Pollan talks about hunting it's a little over-sensationalized for me. However, I appreciate his newly found respect for hunting.

Some of my fav passages which I'm putting in the review because I couldn't mark up the library book:

page 215 Arthur Koestler's definition of "holon": "an entity that from one perspective appears self-contained whole, and from another a different part."

page 248 The Weston Price Foundation

page 254 "A protest of what exactly is harder to pin down...expense to opt out...distrusting Walmart...wanting to keep their food dollars in town..."

page 257 "Local food, as opposed to organic, implies a new economy as well as a new agriculture--new social and economic relationships as well as ecological ones. It's a lot more complicated."

page 264 descriptions of the grass-fed meal.

page 281 description of his food journey in the simplest of terms " look into the food chains that support us as I could look, and recover the fundamental biological realities that the complexities of modern industrialized eating keep from our view."

page 285 "'Nature,' as Woody Allen character says in _Love and Death_, 'is like an enormous restaurant."

By far the most hopeful and mind-blowing part of the book hands-down belongs to the Grass-fed section. I can't explain how I would irrationally move to Virginia just to be near to Polyface Farms even though I have found my own quite fabulous grass-farmer here in Ohio--Luginbill Farms.

Why would I be scared to own this book? Because it's made me so much in-the-know that I can't go to the grocery store without being hyper-sensitive and critical about what I'm putting in my cart, emotionally, politically, and psychologically, which then led me to become obsessed with the food I eat at the wide variety of restaurants we patron. The only time I feel content eating now is after we visit the Farmers Market and return with our local fruits and veggies or at Revolver Restaurant where they tell patrons on the menu which farms the food came from. While I'm not sure all the food we buy at the Farmers Markets grows on sustainable farms, I do feel better about buying food straight from our local farmers.

My recommendation is this: If you sincerely want to know what is happening in America's food culture, read this book. You'll be forever changed.

If you want to be able to happily eat whatever you wish without thinking about it, don't read this book. You'll be in the dark, and that will be a happy, easy place to remain.

As much as I sometimes wish I was in the dark, especially so I could enjoy restaurant eating again, I'm happy I'm in-the-know.

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