Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

It’s not every day you read a book that threatens to change your life. I use the word “threaten” very deliberately, because they are changes that I know I'm going to find challenging.

In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan challenges his readers to examine their food a little closer, to consider where it comes from. And it's a logical request I think. We can spend days searching for the perfect doctor or mechanic, but how much time do we take to really think about our food? Do you know where your steak came from? Is your asparagus from a nearby farm, or far-flung Argentina? Are your peaches organic, and if so, what does that really mean? Most of us have no idea how to answer these questions.

In most cases, the answers are simple. Most of our food likely comes from a massive industrial farm or feed lot hundreds of miles away, fed by incredible amounts of fossil fuels -- the fertilizer, the machines used for harvesting, the trucks it took to transport the food to your local mega-mart, to name just a few uses of fossil fuel. Pollan's descriptions of these farms (and in particular, the feed lots) can be quite disturbing. However, Pollan does not outright condemn this "industrial food chain." He concedes that it would be difficult to feed billions of people inexpensively without it. Instead, he advocates having several different avenues for delivering food to our tables, and he describes several alternatives. It is up to the reader to determine how they want to eat.

As for me, my eyes have been opened to the appeal of "eating locally," where possible. (Emphasis on "where possible." There aren't too many oranges grown in Idaho.) By eating foods produced as close to my home as possible, I support the local economy, less fossil fuels are used, and the food should have fewer preservatives, hormones, and other chemical ingredients. Best of all, the food should be fresher and more flavorful. Yes, it will cost more, but I think it will be worth it. At least I'm willing to try it. I consider it an experiment.

I found Pollan's writing engaging and easy to read. (Disclaimer: I am a huge nerd, and the topic really spoke to me. If you don't like science, you may not find this book as fascinating.) A few words of warning: if evolution makes you uncomfortable, you may not like this book, as it often talks about the evolution of plants, animals and humans. Also, there were two or three instances where objectionable language was used. 4/5 stars


Lula O said...

Welcome Stephanie! I learned alot from this book. Mainly that I know very little at all about what I eat and where it comes from, if that makes any sense.

Did I want to know? Yes...and no, but it was very interesting. I felt bad for the poop-covered cows in the feed lots and the egg producing chickens in the tiny cages, and I don't even eat meat!

But knowledge is power in this case. The more you know, the better choices you can make in regards to what you and your family eats.

I felt right at home with his writing. He knows alot about plants and ecosystems. Every meal he prepared was a science experiment, and his hunting story was hysterical!

Overall, an informative, well-written book.

The Bradfords said...

Stephanie, I'd like to know where you will shop to get more locally grown foods. I've seen some things at Albertson's, but not much. I like the idea of buying locally grown food, I just don't know where to shop!

Stephanie said...

I think it's definitely going to be a challenge. I found an outfit that will deliver (relatively) local milk, but it is ~$5/gallon (gulp) so it had better be the best tasting milk evah! (First delivery tomorrow, so I'll let you know.)

Then there is a market in Kuna that has local meat and eggs that I'm going to try. Fruits and veggies, I think, will be tricky until we're into the growing season. If we're all growing gardens, maybe we can do swaps?

Anyhow, I'll keep you updated!

Lula O said...

I love to swap, don't I Suzette? She got tomatoes. I got chocolate-covered caramels. I dee-finitely got the better end of that stick.

The Bradfords said...

And those were even locally grown chocolate-covered caramels. Amazing.

Stephanie said...

I wish MY garden grew chocolate-covered caramels! :)