Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma

This post has been a long time coming, I know.

Going out of order, I first read Michael Pollan's best-seller "In Defense of Food" and after becoming completely enthralled I went back and picked up his first book on the topic, "The Omnivore's Dilemma."

While Pollan works to explain how a meal (specifically a fast food meal) gets to the table, he goes into great detail about how corn has infiltrated our food system (not to mention the industrial system in general) to an extreme extent, without most people even realizing it. Personally, I had no idea how invasive the corn industry is in things we use every day. He also gives us an in depth account as to the real conditions on feed lots and chicken farms. At times his detail made me cringe and completely disgusted me, but I kept reading because it's the truth and I need to know where my food comes from to be a conscious and responsible eater.

He spent time on a farm in Virginia that eschews modern farming techniques in favor of a farm that relies on a full circle system where the earth, sunlight, and animals work together to produce healthy food in an environmentally friendly environment. It's really interesting to read about people who are literally going against the grain and fighting federal government regulations which consistently favor big industrial farms, in order to produce exceptional food while helping the environment. Joel Salatin, the farmer, is featured in the documentary film, "Food, Inc."

Pollan also explores large organic farm movement by highlighting operations such as Cal-Organic and Earthbound. He delves into the question of whether or not these companies still hold true to the real values and ideals of organic farms, as intended when they first began in the 1970's. It's one thing to buy organic foods, but how much good are you really doing for the environment if those fruits and veggies are flown 3,000 miles before it gets to your plate?

The last section of the book explores Pollan's journey to hunt, gather and grow an entire meal. He explores the conflicts of hunting and eating meat, in general. He hunts wild pig, gathers mushrooms, and searches for salt. He tends to a vegetable garden in hopes of creating a meal that costs nothing but time and effort in order to know and experience where his food comes from.

It's a very intersting book that has taught me a great deal and has made me care more about where my food comes from. This and "In Defense of Food" are variations on a theme. But a very important theme, for sure. I do think it is a book worthy of our time. In order to be truly healthy, we should know what it is that we're putting in our bodies and where it comes from.

For more information on this book, Michael Pollan, and other important food topics, visit:


heyMamas said...

Love the premise of your blog and I love New York bloggers!! I worked for years in that black building on your masthead, on the 48th floor overlooking the park and it was amazing!!

Sadie at heyMamas

NY Wolve said...

I learned about the economics of fast food in "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. That is an enlightening read. Thanks for the review -- seen this book around a lot.

Robyn said...

Hmm interesting book it sounds like. Did you take anything away that you'll incorporate into your day to day?

J said...

Sounds like a good book! I have seen it at the library but never picked it up!

Katie @ Health for the Whole Self said...

I really respect the work that Michael Pollan does. I think that many people would rather remain ignorant of where their food really comes from, but in this case ignorance is not bliss!