The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Tonight I finished reading Michael Pollan‘s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Let me start by reiterating that I generally have trouble reading non-fiction. Consequently I have stayed mainly in the realm of the imaginary, save for the occasional essay. If this book, then, has accomplished one thing, it has shown me that non-fiction narrative writing can hold my attention from start to finish.

Pollan spends his 400+ pages unfolding what I can only describe as an exposé of eating. Sure, the subtitle claims the book is “A Natural History of Four Meals,” but I feel the balance tips more in favor of process than past leading up to the food we eat. This serves my nerdy side quite well, feeding me (ha ha) plenty of both trivial and significant tidbits about the food industry, agriculture, and harvesting. The author’s story-telling style grabbed me from the first chapter, captivating me with tales of corn harvests and mycophelia – topics I’d scarce considered on my own even as a burgeoning foodie. Over the past week I’ve found myself reading in bed just to finish one more chapter about grass farming, wild pigs, or feed lots.

For all the enjoyable reading Omnivore provides, however, what strikes me most about this book is how it’s affected me. Other than the Bible, I’ve never read a book that so made me want to change how I live my life as Mr. Pollan’s Opus (…look, I’m entitled to a really crappy joke every now and again). Having read about the effects of industrialized agriculture on the health of our nation’s people, farms, environment, and economy, and the health and taste benefits of more naturally raised livestock and produce, I earnestly plan to seek out food co-ops, pastured meat producers, and local food purveyors than I presently patronize. Sure it’ll cost more in dollars, but I believe in the long run my cooking will benefit, and so will my health. This book is a potential instigator of change in my life, and that’s more valuable (or at least more intriguing) than simple entertainment.

I’ve held back on posts related to my reading of this book – partly because it was published last year and I’m (as usual) late to the party – but also because I didn’t want to give away what I was in the middle of reading. The entry was a hint, and I’m likely to post more related links and such about natural food and the industrial food system we have in the US. Don’t worry, this won’t become some crazy soap box where I rail against the American Culinary-Industrial Complex. I will, however, whole-heartedly recommend to everybody reading my website to find this book and give it a perusal.

In the meantime, I anxiously await his follow-up, In Defense of Food, to be released in January.

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