Food chains analyzed
Pollan begins with an exploration of the food-production system from which the vast majority of American meals are derived. This industrial food chain is largely based on corn, whether it is eaten directly, fed to livestock, or processed into chemicals such as glucose and ethanol. Pollan discusses how the humble corn plant came to dominate the American diet through a combination of biological, cultural, and political factors. The role of petroleum in the cultivation and transportation the American food supply is also discussed.
A fast-food meal is used to illustrate the end result of the industrial food chain.
The following chapter delves into the principles of organic farming and their various implementations in modern America. Pollan shows that as organic food has grown in popularity, its producers have adopted many of the methods of industrial agriculture, while losing sight of the organic movement's anti-industrial roots. A meal prepared from ingredients purchased at Whole Foods represents this food chain at the table.
As a study in contrast, Pollan visits a small-scale organic farm, where natural conditions are adhered to as closely as possible, very few artificial inputs are used, and waste products are recycled back into the system. He then prepares a meal using only local produce from small-scale organic farmers.
The final chapter finds Pollan attempting to prepare a meal using only ingredients he has hunted, gathered, or grown himself. He recruits assistance from local foodies, who teach him to hunt feral pigs, gather wild mushrooms, and search for abalone. He also fixes a salad of greens from his own garden, bakes sourdough bread using wild yeast, and prepares a dessert from cherries picked in his neighborhood.
Pollan concludes that while such a meal is not practical on a regular basis, as an occasional exercise it helps to reconnect us with the natural origins of food as well as our own human history.
What should we have for dinner? The question has confronted us since man discovered fire, but according to Michael Pollan, the bestselling author of The Botany of Desire, how we answer it today, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, may well determine our very survival as a species. Should we eat a fast-food hamburger? Something organic? Or perhaps something we hunt, gather, or grow ourselves? The omnivore’s dilemma has returned with a vengeance, as the cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet confronts us with a bewildering and treacherous food landscape. What’s at stake in our eating choices is not only our own and our children’s health, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth.
In this groundbreaking book, one of America’s most fascinating, original, and elegant writers turns his own omnivorous mind to the seemingly straightforward question of what we should have for dinner. To find out, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us—industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves—from the source to a final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating. His absorbing narrative takes us from Iowa cornfields to food-science laboratories, from feedlots and fast-food restaurants to organic farms and hunting grounds, always emphasizing our dynamic coevolutionary relationship with the handful of plant and animal species we depend on. Each time Pollan sits down to a meal, he deploys his unique blend of personal and investigative journalism to trace the origins of everything consumed, revealing what we unwittingly ingest and explaining how our taste for particular foods and flavors reflects our evolutionary inheritance.
The surprising answers Pollan offers to the simple question posed by this book have profound political, economic, psychological, and even moral implications for all of us. Beautifully written and thrillingly argued, The Omnivore’s Dilemma promises to change the way we think about the politics and pleasure of eating. For anyone who reads it, dinner will never again look, or taste, quite the same.
· 1 decade ago