Hearing about The Omnivore's Dilemma for the past year or so, certainly made me curious about the transport chain from farm to mouth. It is when Mr. PHearing about The Omnivore's Dilemma for the past year or so, certainly made me curious about the transport chain from farm to mouth. It is when Mr. Pollan sticks to the different systems that produce our produce, that this book excels. His reporting on industrial agriculture (territory mined in Fast Food Nation) is harrowing and demonstrates definitively the complete lack of sustainability by which most people in the US (and abroad) get their calories. At the other end, when Joe Salatin and his grass farm are introduced, the descriptions of symbiotic and natural growth practiced at Polyface will make you question why all food isn't cultivated in this manner.
However, while discussing the meals prepared and methods used for the hunting/gathering portion of the book, the text significantly flags. There is, I discovered, a limit to the amount of food "porn" and introspection found when shooting a feral pig that I find interesting. Yet, if you can handle these self-congratulatory, pompous asides there is much of interest to be found regarding our food networks in Omnivore....more
When I first saw this book in our local bookstore, I was interested in its purported claim to trace the intricacies in the power structure surroundingWhen I first saw this book in our local bookstore, I was interested in its purported claim to trace the intricacies in the power structure surrounding global food production/distribution. As a broad primer about the different ways in which campesinos growing soy in Brazil, Koreans fighting against the WTO, rural South Africans growing Bt cotton, etc. relate to the Global North's food acquisition and lack of satisfactory distribution, Stuffed generally succeeds. There is no shortage of vignettes painted about the people that are effected by our food policies, and those presented are often enlightening.
However, given this remarkable breadth, the work comes up short due to its lack of depth. Often, the author would be working through a particular thesis or example, and leave the pages littered with unwarranted claims. I would find myself moving through a particular argument, thinking that he might provide the coup de grace for a particular practice (GMOs, NAFTA, SAPs, etc.) when he would rapidly shift gears to another argument. This was especially frustrating because I am predisposed to agree with the central tenet that there are global power structures that do not have the people's interests at heart. Rather than provide a manifesto about the abuse of power and the methods we can undertake to shift the power base back to the people, Mr. Patel settles instead for a series of interesting scenes. In then end, I felt this book could have gone further into this particular global network, but it does provide a starting point for our (global) struggle. ...more
I am not saying that I myself am a fabulous writer, nor do I envision myself breaking ground with dry business writing,This book is not well written.
I am not saying that I myself am a fabulous writer, nor do I envision myself breaking ground with dry business writing, but this effort by Mr. Johnston is quite bad. Too often he slips into cliches and poorly constructed metaphors in the middle of sections detailing rational arguments against government sponsored capitalism. Yet, if this was the worse offense, Free Lunch would still be tolerable. It is the overabundance of moralizing and self-righteousness, paired with the same biblical quotations, that made this book unpalatable. I am willing to grant that the author would like to use a judeo-christian paradigm - the same that underwrites our constitution, legal system, democracy - to establish the inappropriate nature of government subsidies, but this same point on every other page is a bit heavy-handed. A simple chapter establishing his rationale would have been more than sufficient for this purpose. Moreover, I don't think Mr. Johnston has a lot of faith in his reader's ability to understand basic economic theory. Large sections of the book are spent explaining, then re-explaining, fairly obvious economic flaws behind various government policies.
The only saving grace is that Mr. Johnston has an over-abundance of research and analysis to prove the central thesis of the book. The arguments, when presented rationally, are clear and I believe that a number of his claims regarding our regressive tax systems and growing economic disparity are warranted by the evidence presented. Ultimately, if you want an analysis of the growing rift between poor and rich pick up Paul Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal....more