The Omnivore’s Dilemma

On Christmas Day, Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deals were HOT! One book that was available digitally for peanuts was Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential; another was a book called The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. Both were $2.99, which is really nothing considering that digital downloads of individual comic books can cost the cover price of $3.99 or more.

I had already read Bourdain’s book recently, and Pollan’s book has come highly recommended for a long time, so I skipped the first and jumped on the opportunity to check out the latter.

I am very glad that I finally did.

I’m not going to sit here and talk about how it was an eye opener as to how bad our food system has become. There’s been a whole lot of propaganda out there slamming the corn and soy industries and making the monster corporations that seemingly control the food system look like real jerks. I don’t doubt that they are on some level.

Pollan’s book takes a more novel approach to advocate for locally and more sustainably generated goods and presents it from the point of view of a practical human who is living in 21st century America. The tact that he takes is one where you can feel comfortable reading the book and being guilty of supporting the practices he outlines. He is critical of the practices of industrial agriculture and describes them in detail but criticizes in such a way to not come across as arrogant or condescending.

He illustrates many points by describing how he traced (or tried to) the components of different meals all the way back to the source of the ingredients. The trouble he describes in doing this for fast food meals is something that I think is an important lesson for all to learn. And the difficulty that he has to forage all of the ingredients necessary to make a meal that would impress some of his food enthusiast friends is another important lesson that can be taken from the book.

Like I said before, his arguments are not one-sided and his method of storytelling is actually quite pleasant (except the part where he describes slaughters, which is actually very well-written albeit graphic).

I definitely recommend adding this book to your list of things to read.


One thought on “The Omnivore’s Dilemma

  • irisira

    I snapped up a lot of the Kindle deals that were on hand most of Christmas week, but Christmas day itself was a whirlwind of activity and as a result I missed out. I’ve been wanting to read Pollan’s book for some time.

    I do go by his practices – reading labels, shopping the perimeter, ramping up my vegetables in meals so I can pare down the meat, etc. I think it is important stuff.

    The corn and soy industries (along with the GMO industry) have played a big role in helping to ensure that everyone is fed. The problem is, now instead of a starved population, we have an undernourished population that doesn’t appear starving. NPR has been doing a series on Morning Edition about how much cheaper AND easier it is to buy mac and cheese from a box than it is to buy fresh vegetables. It’s not an easy problem to solve.

    I feel fortunate that I am in an income bracket and live a lifestyle that allows me to follow these principles, but I often have to remind myself to check my privilege, because it is really not as simple as it may look. Even so, people like Michael Pollan are bringing attention to the issue, which is an important first step.


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