The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan

2006. NY Times Book Review One of the 10 Best Books of the Year.

We eat every day of our lives but we don’t often give much thought to what we put in  our bodies. If we are what we eat, then when it comes to meat, we are what the animal eats; and when it comes to produce, we are what the plant’s grown in.

There’s a food chain that extends around the world and throughout evolutionary history from the beginning of man to the present. Michael Pollan takes us on a tour of that chain and in the process gives any thinking, eating, person a new, often disturbing, view of what he/she consumes.

Organized in three sections to illuminate industrial food (corn), pastoral food (grass), and personal food (the forest), Pollan’s narrative builds toward meals made as nearly as possible with ingredients and methods from each of these categories.

I double-dog-dare anyone to read this book and walk through a modern supermarket without viewing  each item of food differently.  And if you’re like me, take your glasses, because the real information about what we buy and eat is in the small print, written in code, to disguise as much as possible what we truly consume.

The central area of the supermarket is processed food. Good luck figuring that out. (When you can’t determine the identity of fifteen out of eighteen ingredients on that package of processed whatever – chances are high what you’re reading – and eating – are corn derivatives.)

Around the walls, where we find the produce, meat, and fish, it would seem that the information describing the food would be more straight-forward. Good luck figuring that out, too. (Chances are every formerly living item was nourished or fertilized with corn or corn derivatives.)

Unless you plan to follow a steer or a chicken through its life cycle to see how the animal lives, and dies, and becomes the food on your plate, you have to rely on someone like Pollan to take that trip for you, document his findings, and present it as he does here.

I’ve read about food my entire life and tried to keep up on healthy eating without succumbing to fads.  I’ve never encountered such an intelligent, entertaining, and practical guide to the state of food in America today as The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Read it and eat.



M L Rudolph has worked for CNN among other American and British television and film companies. He has written for general interest and trade magazines and published his first novel, Facing the Son, A novel of Africa, on Amazon in 2011. More are on the way. Rudolph is a dual US/UK national and lives in Pasadena, CA. View all posts by M L RUDOLPH

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