Friday, April 25, 2008

More Michael Pollan

Pollan is also the author of another great book called The Omnivore's Dilemma. In it he tries to rouse the reader out of a different type of 'food coma' than most college students are used to. The vast majority of people seldom see or think about where their food comes from. Our society is full of conveniences like supermarkets and fast food restaurants that keep our minds off the topic.

My most memorable food related shock came when I was about 12. My parents' friends invited my family to their backyard to disassemble and cook up a whole goat that they had just slaughtered on some New Jersey farm. Their youngest son and I were to clean out the intestines for sausage casings. I had never really thought about where my delicious sausages came from, or even how they were made until that time. I didn't eat any sausage for about a year after that, and to this day still have trouble with it.

Later that summer we were invited over again. This time we all went to the farm together and brought back a live turkey. I sat in the backseat with the turkey in a bag and thought about every turkey I've ever eaten. Were they all as smelly as this one? When we got to the house, the dads snapped its neck and held the bird down until it stopped flapping about. I didn't eat much at this dinner either. It's strange to think that our society has moved sufficiently far from nature that even a small glimpse into the inner workings of where food comes from can be so devastating and surprising.

Despite all my coursework in nutrition and these experiences with animals I still can't find the will power to completely drop meat or dairy from my diet. I know that if I had to slaughter an animal before every dinner it would be a different story, but Pollan says this is just fine; it's impossible to get most people to stop eating meat. However, taking time to recognize the process of food production and and what went into getting the food to your table can not only lead to improvement of the quality of life of livestock, but also bring a new type of enrichment to your life.

From a much more comprehensive review of the book:

On Friday, I went with Craig and my good friend Lauren to The Little Owl for dinner. Famous for their pork chop, I was suggesting she and Craig order it—I’ve had it before—while I settled upon a lamb T-bone. Having gone on a pre-dinner tirade about “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and the provenance of meat, Craig felt compelled to ask the server where all this meat was coming from.

And, lo and behold, there was an answer. “Our pork chops come from,” and she named the farm, "where they're fed a diet of acorns and honey." The lamb was "grass-fed, free-range, organic lamb from Colorado.”

Wow. All we had to do was ask and suddenly the plate of food we were served had a story, a compelling narrative that not only alleviated my tortured conscience, but actually—magically or not—made the food taste better.

This is a great book to check out if you're writing your paper on anything related to food, or if you're just looking for a good read.


Chris Bentley said...

Pollan just came out with a follow up to Omnivore's Dilemma, entitled In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. This focuses more on the nutritional aspect of food consciousness. He makes suggestions on how readers can take steps personally away from a scourge he identifies as "nutritionism" and towards "real food."

His manifesto is printed on the cover: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Meredith Donnan said...

I have been meaning to read this book. I have it on my bookshelf. I am really interested in Pollan's writings.

dmc68 said...

When I read the part of the manifesto that says "Mostly plants" it made me think of all the statistics out there that show that Americans eat way too much meat (as compared to the rest of the world). The funny thing is though, I never really think about how much meat I eat in a given day. It was only when I visited countries like China, and the Dominican Republic, that I finally realized how mind-boggling it is (to other cultures) that we can eat meat every single day here. What was even more eye-opening was the kind of meat we are used to having. While we can eat chicken, beef, or pork everyday, it was very common in China to see people eating scorpions and beetles.

sean said...

i just started reading this book...
the hard part now is deciding if
there's anything left i CAN eat. D: