Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

I like books.
I like food.
So it stands to reason that I would like a book about food.

The thing is, I don't read much nonfiction.
I just have a hard time with it.
At least I used to.
But The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, was one of the most fascinating nonfiction books I have ever read.
Not even kidding.


Journalist Michael Pollan sets out to capture the essence of the food industry in modern America. The book is divided into three sections, Industrial: Corn, Pastoral: Grass, and Personal: The Forest. In these three sections, Pollan travels the United States, examining how food comes to the table. It is an incredible journey, and one I admire greatly.

The first section documents the food industry, mainly corn. It amazes me how much corn is in the processed foods we consume. And not even just the processed, boxed foods on the supermarket shelves; even most of the meat we consume has been eating corn (among other disgusting things...) for most of its short and horrible feedlot life. Pollan concludes this section with a McDonald's meal that he discovers is almost 100% genetically modified processed corn. GROSS.

The second section documents the organic food industry, which basically comes down to food that is mass-produced, but without pesticides and antibiotics, etc. The question that he asks himself is this: Is this really what the organic movement was all about? The answer isn't exactly clear-cut, but I agree with him when he says that it shouldn't really be this way, but that it's better than the food in the first section of the book. But in this same section, Pollan visits Polyface Farm, run by Joel Salatin who is a champion of the "beyond organic" movement. His farm was incredible. I can't even begin to do it justice, so you'll just have to read the book. At any rate, I now wish to only consume grass-fed meats and eggs from pastured hens.

The third section, and probably the most fascinating, documents the food foraging that still goes on today. Pollan learns how to shoot a gun, gets himself a license, and goes with a friend to hunt wild pig in Northern California. He talks about the ethics and how he felt about the whole process. He also goes mushroom hunting, which sounds like a huge lesson in patience. And he explores the whole idea of gathering the food you eat, which culminates in a mouthwatering meal.


This is a book that I couldn't really review in detail without giving away some of the surprises within Pollan's story. But his journey and experiences are inspiring in more ways than one. If you read this book (and I encourage you to do so), I guarantee you'll change your mind about the way you eat. At the very least, you might think a little bit more before stopping at McDonald's or buying that prepackaged TV dinner. And please, for the love of everything truly delicious, stop drinking so much soda!!


  1. Grow a garden and raise chickens! Both are plenty of work, but in the end they can both be cheaper and healthier. Plus there's the exercise of tilling, planting, hoeing, weeding, and harvesting.

    1. I am in the midst of garden planning already! I also do plan to raise chickens, but that will have to wait until we own a place instead of rent. :)