Lindsay's Reviews > The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
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's review
Aug 27, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction
Recommended to Lindsay by: Andrea
Recommended for: omnivores

I heard Michael Pollan on NPR some time ago, and was interested in what he had to say, but mostly decided I would avoid it. The last time I read a book that discussed the food industry (okay, okay, I unknowingly read the young adult version of Fast Food Nation. It was still a good book!) I was very disturbed, and determined to change how I shop for food. I knew it would be a financial sacrifice. I just didn’t realize how much of a financial sacrifice it would be. I decided to continue on as I had prior to reading the book, pretending that I didn’t know how the food I’m eating is raised. Anyway, back to this book. After listening to Michael Pollan, I quickly realized that his book would create even more cognitive dissonance for me. So, I decided not to read it after all. I saw it later in the store, (ironically, in Smith’s) and decided not to check it out, in spite of my curiosity. Later, when my friend Andrea not only recommended it to me, but offered to loan me her copy, I realized I couldn’t avoid it. I would have to read the book and face the uncomfortable feelings that it would conjure.

I’m now on the other side, and grappling with those feelings, but I’m still glad that Andrea put this book into my hands.
Although the writing is sometimes not terribly clean (he wanders, and comes back to hit the same point he’s already made, things like that), for me this is forgivable in light of the scope of the book. So much that he says is really fascinating, I’m not sure where to begin. A few of my favorite topics:
The history of corn, and how the U.S. governments policies regarding corn have led to both hunger and obesity.
The rituals and culture that surround eating food.
An in depth look at how the search for ever cheaper ways to produce food have led to unfathomable practices in the food industry.
How different, (or not) the food in Whole Foods is from traditional grocery stores.
How grazing cattle can actually be beneficial to the pasture. For me, the biggest surprise of the book was his examination of death and its relationship to life.

This was particularly explored in the chapter on hunting. Michael Pollan really examines the philosophies behind vegetarianism and then goes hunting for the first time. His self consciousness and reverence for the life he will take made his experience much easier for me to relate to. At one point, his description reminded me of an Orson Scott Card book that I am now hoping to reread. I can’t remember if it was Speaker for the Dead or Xenocide. At the time that I read it, I remember feeling uneasy, even disgusted. I would like to see whether it has a different feel following this book.

So now I am faced with this dilemma. I have a much better understanding of how the food choices I make impact the world around me. And yet, following my conscience costs a lot more money. There we have it again. Cognitive dissonance. Still, I highly recommend the book. It has forced me to consider my place in the world from an ecological perspective.

“Imagine for a moment if we once again knew these few unremarkable things: What it is we’re eating. Where it came from. How it found its way to our table. And what, in a true accounting, it really cost. We would no longer need any reminding that however we choose to feed ourselves, we eat by the grace of nature, not industry, and what we’re eating is never anything more or less than the body of the world.”
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by An (new) - rated it 5 stars

An Thoughtful commentary. I will definitely read this book now.

message 2: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Sounds like the Jared Diamond of the food world. I actually own this book and have yet to read it. I look forward to getting into it... probably around Christmas.

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