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Title: The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Author: Michael Pollan
Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from what can only be described as a national eating disorder. Will it be fast food tonight, or something organic? Or perhaps something we grew ourselves? The question of what to have for dinner has confronted us since man first discovered fire. But, as Michael Pollan explains in this revolutionary book, how we answer it now, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, may determine our survival as a species. Packed with profound surprises, The Omnivore’ s Dilemma is changing the way Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.
I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck picking out non-fiction books for myself, but I can literally count on three fingers the number of non-fiction titles I’ve read from cover to cover.
So if a non-fiction book can manage to land itself securely on my Top Ten Favorite Books list, that is saying something. Such is the case for The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.
Now I know that this book was all the rage a couple years ago and you’ve probably already read it, but I have this habit of showing up late to parties. And if you’re like me and you haven’t read this book yet, you need to add it to your list. It tells the story of Pollan’s gastric journey through three distinct food chains: industrial (corn-based), pastoral (grass-based), and wild (hunting and gathering). He gives an honest accounting of the American food industry in a way that is both entertaining and terrifying. He minces no words, either—he’s quick to point out that even the organic industry isn’t perfect.
My favorite quote, from pp. 107-108:
Very simply, we subsidize high-fructose corn syrup in this country, but not carrots. While the surgeon general is raising alarms over the epidemic of obesity, the president is signing farm bills designed to keep the river of cheap corn flowing, guaranteeing that the cheapest calories in the supermarket will continue to be the unhealthiest.
Pretty much, I think this should be required reading for Americans who eat food. Knowing what we put in our bodies is important, and unfortunately, a lot of that is controlled by politics and money. Understanding what goes on in the industry helps us make more informed decisions as consumers. I know every author every controversial position has to be taken with a grain of salt, but I believe that The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a good place to start.
Then again, this book also gets a lot of credit for inspiring me to go to grad school, so I admit I’m a little biased.
Score: (5 / 5)