Saturday, July 12, 2008

Omnivore's Dilemna

This book will change your life. To say that sounds admittedly dramatic, even pretentious. If someone were to recommend a book to me along those lines I would imagine a tear-soaked novel centered on love and the meaning of life. I would assume the novel was an implicit test of my sensibilities. Did I get it or was I too mundane to appreciate what it had to offer? Too much pressure for me. Fear not: this book is about food. And, yes, it will change your life.

It would be hard to follow Michael Pollan through Omnivore's Dilemma and not come out with different eating habits. His examination of industrial agriculture raises serious concerns about the health, ecological consequences, and morality of this practice. The critical review is powerful on its own but we have seen it before in The Jungle and Fast Food Nation. What separates this book from the others is Pollan provides the political history behind our current agricultural practices. The loss of small farms and diversified crops has been official governmental policy since Nixon. Also, most importantly, Pollan juxtaposes industrial agriculture with alternative methods of production. This shift transforms the book from shock therapy to inspiration for a new, better way to eat and live.

Pollan's reverence for earth's bounty is contagious; I found myself wishing to accompany him on his mushroom forages--and I hate mushrooms. A good chunk of the book deals with the time he spent on Polyface farm. This small organic farm clearly represented to Pollan the best of current practices. The farm was efficient, diverse, treated animals humanely, and the food tasted great. Instead of relying on artificial inputs Polyface utilized nature's ability to regulate itself. While this might sound hokey, if not naive, Pollan argues that the complexity and efficiency arrived at through evolution is far more effective than anything we have come up with so far. Chickens, cows, pigs, and plants have symbiotic relationships that lead to healthy lives.

I am really excited to attempt to integrate more conscious eating into my life. I have tried before, and failed. In fact, I am writing this while eating a microwaveable pot pie. A successful transition requires a change in lifestyle that I was unable/willing to make before. What is clear is that sacrifice is the wrong word to describe the change. When I think of the fast-food eater next to the health food nut I do not pity the healthy guy. So here I go...right after I finish this pot pie.

1 comment:

Yo Yo Sammy said...

I'm interested in hearing more about this book. The food book. See you soon.