I just finished reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. The Husband suggested I read this after him because he’s big into natural food sources, vitamins and anti-vaccination. He’s hardcore – I am not
Originally, I picked up the non-fiction book to humour him. I usually will read 1 non-fiction book to my every 3 fiction books. The Husband only reads non-fiction. Anyhow, I must say I’m glad to have read this book.
What an eye opener about the way WE eat. It’s frightening actually how little we know of what we eat.
There are four parts or sections to this book where Pollan explores Industrial Corn, Organic versus non Organic eating, Pastoral Eating, and Personal Eating.
He goes into great detail in the Industrial section about corn, the history of corn, how corn is in EVERYTHING we eat today. Not the corn that we eat from a cob, but a “fake” man-made corn from industry. In my opinion this is the most complicated read in the book. I had to put it down many times to digest (pun intended) the information. Did you know that virtually everything in the aisles of the grocery store have some form of corn ingredients mixed in like, xanthan gum, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, etc… It’s really scary. This industrial corn is also being fed to our livestock. So not only are the animals ingesting it, and digesting it, we in turn are eating it and digesting it. This is not a sustainable diet. A lot of animals get sick from their living conditions and diet, hence all the anti-biotics. YUCK!
Pollan ends this section of the book with a trip to McDonalds. He proves that corn is stamped ALL over MD’s food. He also mentions that no one ever savours McDonalds food. Hence the reason we eat it on “the fly”. I guess if we actually took the time to eat this food slowly, we would begin to realize it has no real flavour. It’s the condiments that appeal to our tastebuds, which are loaded with “corn”.
Pollan then goes on to talk about organic food. He explains that WE like to believe we are eating healthier when we choose organic. We shop at places like Whole Foods, or Bruno’s or Pustarie’s believing we are getting “higher” quality food. This is not always the case. Simply put organic is not always better.
The author goes to work on a farm and experience life as a true farmhand. He learns from a “true” organic farmer what it means to be organic. Pollan sees first hand animals grazing in the pasture. He makes the reader understand the importance of the natural food-chain. How grass is THE fundamental thing in nature used to feed animals, enrich the soil, reduce the need (if at all) for pesticides. The key to this is to not over produce. The farm needs to operate like a well scheduled machine. In other words, you can’t rush the process. Nature will do what it will do. The farmer’s job is to be their to guide the next step. In this section of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan eats a “real” chicken that he helps kill himself. His meal consists of locally grown and pesticide free food. He LOVES this meal. He says it’s the first time in a long time that his chicken actually tasted like CHICKEN.
In the final section of the book, Pollan forages for his own food, either through hunting, growing or gathering the perfect ingredients to create the optimal meal. He hunts and kills his own pig, gathers greens, and scours for mushrooms. Seriously, the dude went on and on about mushrooms. At one point I put the book down and thought, damn dude, enough with the ‘shrooms. Pollan spends forever planning and cooking this meal. He is most impressed by the outcome. Not just the quality of the food, but the means is was collected and the stories that came with it.
Here’s my take-away:
We need to be aware of what we are eating. We also need to be aware of what we are eating is eating. Sometimes I like to play dumb and look the other way. Not only is it very hard to come by “real” food but it’s also a lot of work.
We are all guilty of shopping at grocery chains out of convenience. Life is hectic. Pollan realizes that going to McDonalds or foraging for yourself on a regular basis is not a sustainable way of eating.
I plan on spending a little more time reading labels, limiting the processed foods or fast foods (which I already do) and just being more aware of my surroundings and what goes into my mouth. Instead of rushing through a meal, I will take more time thinking about what I eat. I will also ensure that we eat as a family and that we all eat the same DINNER every night. I learned this past summer in France that dining is a social thing and a time for family.
Get the book. It’s very enlightening. I’m moving on to something much lighter for my next read. Suggestions??
See you Monday!