Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

I had read a review or two of this book, but didn’t care to read it until after a friend recommended it last summer, around the time it came out in paperback. It still took me some time to actually pick it up, but right before Christmas break I bought it at the bookstore, and was completely absorbed almost from the first page.

The major premise of the book is that in our current society we have departed from all prior human experience in that we know almost nothing about where our food comes from, and subsequently face an increasingly confused relationship with food—what Pollan calls our “national eating disorder.” His solution: take a close look at as many parts as possible of the production of four different meals.

Pollan begins the book by taking a look at the preparation of a fast food meal, then at “Big Organic” (like Whole Foods) and what sets mass-produced organic foods apart from the non-organic mass-produced counterparts…as well as what doesn’t. The third section discusses much smaller-scale, sustainable, local agriculture, and in the fourth section Pollan goes through the experience of creating a meal entirely out of ingredients he himself has grown, collected, or hunted.

Reading this book made me want to recommend it to everyone I know. Although Pollan's tone remained intelligent and non-alarmist throughout (which greatly helped his argument), I can no longer look at my food the same way I once did. I feel like it ought to have changed my eating habits more than it actually did, but at the very least it made me a lot more aware of what I am eating and where it comes from, and made me aware of just how much we don’t know when so much of our food (even what we prepare ourselves!) is mass-produced at some level. Pollan’s writing is not just eye-opening—he is also very good at convincing readers that we really do need our eyes opened.


KMDuff said...

This was a well written book. I was disappointed a bit with the new one, though it was good too. I read an older one and saw some of the similar style of writing, it just really works awesome in this book.

k nelle said...

I've been wanting to read this book. It's on a future book list of mine somewhere! Nice review.