Sometimes I buy a book and it takes me forever to read the thing. Not because it’s a bad book, but rather because I sometimes just don’t have the time to sit down and read! That’s what happened to me with The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. I bought this book in October 2008 and it took me about a year to get through it.
However, do not interpret that last sentence as a criticism of this book! No, in fact this is one of the best sustainable living/organic food books that I’ve ever read. Pollan is a master at bringing out the larger issues in our food system. In this book, he manages to achieve that success by following the food from its humble beginnings in the field (or on the industrial farm, as it may be) all the way through when we eat it. The book is a really fascinating look at what happens to our meat and produce before it gets to our tables.
But those with queasy stomachs beware. While Pollan doesn’t talk too much about the gore associated with creating the food that we eat, he talks about it enough to allow the reader to infer just what is going on. From chickens getting their throats sliced and drained of their blood to cows being shot directly between the eyes to kill them, this book will tell you about exactly how our ground beef and chicken cutlets come into being before they hit our dinner tables.
But it’s not all dying animals and blood. In fact, Pollan spends a great deal of time talking about the industrial food system and how we’ve changed the base of our diets from a variety of original sources hundreds of years ago (and even decades ago) to a base of corn. Yes, that’s right – corn. Pollan talks about the ways in which corn is broken down into a whole collection of different components and how those components are used to construct any number of new products. One of the facts that I read in this book that has stuck with me is how we now feed our livestock a corn-based diet at industrial farms and how that diet has changed the very meat of these animals. It all makes sense though, right? If you change what you feed animals that you intend to eat, then you are essentially changing what you intend to eat. There is some discussion about our change to a corn-based system leading to the increasing obesity epidemic in America, too.
Combining Pollan’s natural wit and his great storytelling ability, this book presents the type of information that our society needs to know about in order to create a mass change in our diets. If you’re interested in the slow food movement, local organic farming, or any sustainable living topic in general, then I think that you’ll enjoy this book. Use the link above to read more reviews from Barnes and Noble!