The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Review)

March 28, 2010

Book cover for "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan.Title: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Author: Michael Pollan

Publication Year: 2006

Pages: 464

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Purchased from Chapters.ca

I’ve heard about this book for a few years already, but never got around to reading it until I was on the beach in the Dominican over March Break. Now that I’ve read it, I’m sad that I waited!

The basic premise of Pollan’s book is that he is trying to answer the basic omnivore’s dilemma: when we can eat pretty much anything, what should we eat? He does this by tracing the paths of four very different meals from inception (nature, birth of the animal, etc.) to his plate. The first meal traces industrial corn and cows in the States to a meal at McDonalds. The second meal traces the industrial organic system through some of the more successful farm companies and Whole Foods. The third meal comes from a small “beyond organic” farm that Pollan stays at for a while and where he slaughters his own chicken. And, finally, the fourth meal comes from ingredients that he has grown, killed, and foraged himself. Each meal, and the ingredients, process, and background information that goes with it, are full of invaluable information and insights into the food we eat and where it comes from.

Pollan has really done a good job of showing the average person what our food system has become, and what some of the alternatives are. His writing is very accessible and often humorous as well. It’s not your typical beach reading, but it worked for me, and I sped through it without even realizing how quickly it went by!

I have to say – this book has completely changed the way that I look at food in some very fundamental ways. With my grandparents and uncle being (conventional vegetable) farmers, I’ve grown up rather against the idea of “organic” farming. What I’m realizing now, though, is that a lot of my ideas about organic food are really more about industrial organic food, rather than about what the movement was working towards originally.

If you’re looking for an honest and frank discussion of American food systems and alternatives, this is definitely the book for you.

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