Lost and lucky in the city

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma

After finishing my first Michael Pollan book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I have developed somewhat of an obsession as his two other books, Cooked and In Defense of Food, have just arrived in the mail.  Through much self-control I am determined to read them in order, Cooked, will have to wait.

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma Pollan’s ability to bring in and seamlessly synthesize such a wide range of professional opinions and observations across all topics of the book, all while remaining within the narrative of his ambitious discovery of the American food system.  Pollan’s willingness to sample fare from all sources, without bias, supports his journalistic research into the sources of the American food system by introducing the element of personal experience.

Brief sections in the book covering the more scientific matters behind cow health and corn and grass production can be a slow read for some, yet they lend a credibility to the problems presented and to why the system is in need of an overhaul.  Pollan exemplifies the importance of grass by bringing in Joel Salatin, a farmer who raises all his animals on pasture in the most natural and ethical way possible.  After the release of this book I imagine Salatin’s farm was flooded with avid readers curious to visit the farm in person and understand Pollan’s writings from a first person perspective. 

Salatin is able to build a sustainable circle on his farm, through animal by-products and such, that is both unheard of and unsupportable at the massive industrial level with which mainstream American animal products are produced.  Salatan’s genius in farming technique goes beyond the pasture, as Pollan, speaking through Salatin, is able to tie in the political arguments associated and in support of living off the grid.  The advantages being political, economical, environmental and ethical.

Following an in-depth look at both the industrial and community based food systems fighting for a place in the American stomach, Pollan attempts to construct a meal entirely from food he independently gathered, grew, foraged or hunted.  Under the guidance of knowledgeable, food enthusiasts Pollan experiences each of these forms of acquirement before completing his experience, and novel, with a final meal cooked by him for friends and family.  Pollan’s ability to quietly excerpt his opinion through fact and personal experience, while allowing the reader to form an independent opinion, is the magic behind Pollan’s brilliantly laced together chain outlining a very broken American food system.