I am a voracious reader, sometimes reading several books a week, and I have decided to use this blog to write a book review for every book I read. Maybe no one will be interested in reading this, but maybe it will be fun.
I’m going to start with The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, journalist and food activist, which I read for my book club.
The book traces back four different types of meals that Pollan ends up preparing and eating, a meal from McDonald’s, one using groceries purchased at a big-box organic grocery store, one using food purchased from a small farmer, and one with food he hunted and gathered himself.
The premise is interesting, and readers familiar with Pollan will know that he goes off on philosophical side trips and provides a lot of vital information about how the American food industry is set up. With one of his other books, In Defense of Food, he did more to make me change my eating habits than anything else I have ever read.
Pollan finds his hunted and gathered meal most satisfying and surprises himself by actually enjoying shooting a wild pig. From a practical standpoint, I was more entranced by the chapters about the small family farm in Virgina, the owner of which was so clever about his use of animals to keep his land and food products healthy.
One of Pollan’s main premises is that food based on corn and soybeans—and you would be surprised how much food IS based on them—is inherently less nutritious and good for you than food based on grass. This is both because of the nutritional value of these foods and the conditions in which corn-based animals are kept versus those who are allowed to graze free.
I was startled by how misleading the labels are, even on our “organic” food. Pollan’s conclusion is that your ability to actually go to the source of your food and see especially how the animals are treated is going to be the only way to ensure that your food is healthy and the animals are humanely treated.
Pollan does some philosophical musing that I sometimes don’t have much patience for, and occasionally I felt like we were getting way off the subject. I noticed that he sometimes didn’t seem to understand how he felt about things without reading what someone else said about them, which I thought was curious.
All in all, though, I think Pollan is one of the most interesting writers about food. I would even more strongly recommend In Defense of Food, where he provides some easy-to-follow shopping rules that allow you to eat more healthily.