Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

I purchased the Omnivore's Dilemma at a thrift store for $2.00 a few months ago, and it had been sitting on my shelf for awhile.  I delved into it one lazy weekend, and although it took me the better part of a month to read, it was very eye-opening and enjoyable.  I first heard about the book, through the film Food Inc, which I highly recommend as well.  Both works cover the modern food industry, which is very different from the rest of human history's food, and the resulting effects on our planet and our bodies.

I obviously care about food a great deal, as I believe what you eat is literally what you are.  If you constantly eat crappy fast food and sweets, then thats what you become.  Food expenditures in the US these days are at the lowest percentage of family income of all time, and the plethora of options available at the supermarkets has never been bigger.  The Omnivore's Dilemma helps us to navigate this new situation, and helps us to understand how the food gets to our table, and the answers are surprising.

I do not want to give the book away, but Pollan discusses the world's most plentiful crop corn, which is in nearly everything we eat.  He discusses how this organism has evolved to be perfect for human needs and allowed it to take over vast amounts of land.  He also discusses the organic food system, and how at its ideal, this is an excellent way of thinking about food, but in practice mirrors many of the less tasteful things about the rest of the industry.  Next he lives with Joel Salatin (pictured above), owner/farmer of Polyface Farm, which is my favorite section of the book.  Finally he examines hunting and foraging, which is how human ancestors ate for centuries, before agriculture.

The book is great, and is a good read, as Pollan is able to make the topic very readable.  It is also enlightening, especially about something that we spend a good portion of every day doing, but maybe do not think about enough...

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