Overview of the Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
What should we have for dinner? For omnivore's like ourselves, this simple question has always posed a dilemma: When you can eat just about anything nature (or the supermarket) has to offer, deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety, especially when some of the foods on offer might shorten your life. Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from what can only be described as a national eating disorder. The omnivore's dilemma has returned with a vengeance, as the cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet confronts us with a bewildering and treacherous food landscape.
One does not necessarily expect books about food also to be about bigger ideas like oppression, spirituality, and freedom. Yet Michael Pollan has always defied expectations. To be sure, his two most recent books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, celebrate the pleasure of eating. However, Pollan also serves up something far more potent: a pointed and thorough critique of how the food industry, the government, advertisers, and, yes, even Pollan’s fellow journalists have turned the process of putting food on our tables into an increasingly dysfunctional enterprise. With insight, gentle firmness, and even some well-placed humor, Pollan observes how modern farming is at war with the needs and dictates of nature, how the nutritional policies of the government have rebelled against sound scientific practice, how even the consumer has been divided against himself and that eating has ceased to be for many of us a source of enjoyment and has become instead an occasion for uncertainty, anxiety, and guilt. Within Pollan’s jeremiads there is also a persistent core of hope. While never flinching in his critique of the way things are, Pollan constantly encourages us to think of how things might be. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan guides the reader through an extensive tour of food production in America, tracing a series of food chains from the seed to the table. In the harrowing first part of his story, he takes us to a massive farm in Iowa, where the formerly diverse yield of hay, apples, hogs, and cherries has given way to a vast monocultural enterprise, in which, thanks to government subsidies and a seemingly perverse set of economic principles, corn is king. With a sparkling analysis that adroitly weaves history, science, and sociology, Pollan shows how America has bent its priorities in the service of this single crop, converting it into ethanol, the now-ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup, and even disposable diapers. We discover how the monoculture of corn has impoverished the soil and the people who work it, how it has imperiled the health of the cattle industry (steers are naturally ill-suited to digest grain, but we feed it to them anyway), and how it has led unsuspecting consumers to trade nutrition for cheap calories. Pollan next transports us to a small, ecologically balanced farm in Virginia, where the chickens and cattle roam more freely, and animals and humans alike reap the benefits of a natural food chain based on grass. Finally, in perhaps his most radical encounter with the world of food, Pollan resolves to prepare a meal that he has hunted and gathered by himself. As he stalks a feral pig, dives for abalone, and wonders whether that mushroom he has picked just might kill him, we rediscover food not merely as a physical source of life but as a medium for holy communion with nature and one another.
‘The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals’ is a highly acclaimed book by American author, Michael Pollan. The book was published in year 2006 and whole book seems to search the answer of a simple question, what should we eat. In this book, Pollan marks out record and component of different foods with his very specific findings. This paper intends to discuss the book, ‘The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals’ and further focuses on some related aspects. There are several interesting things in this book for readers and since Pollan is a journalist, his approach reflects throughout the book. Book is divided into three parts and the first part talks about industrial food. Pollan starts this part with discussing about the corn. Here he gives very exclusive information about the corn and also mentions that how after corn leaves farm, it is fed to various animals like fish, pigs, birds, and cows. Pollan suggests that since cows do not like corn and it is hard to digest for cows, cows suffer from numerous problems and ultimately their milk as well as beef makes people sick (Pollan M. , 2006). Pollan chases the corn from farm to the Mc Donald where it lodges its strong presence. He finds that corn after being processed, turns into Soda, milk shake, cheese burger, french fries, chiken nuggets, saldas and several other food items. The author, in first part of the book represents several facts which suggests readers that we consume corn in substantial amount, no matter what we eat in modern life (Pollan M. ). Michael pollan presents several harmful effects of corn. He suggests that it enhaces animal’s growth in an abnormal way and ultimately affects the healt of people who consume their meat or milk. Pollan, in first part of his book, is more concerned about the public health. Apart from this aspect, he also highlighlits the monitary aspects of the corn and explains how it causes losses to the farmers. Pollan also presents some very interesting facts about its political, economical, ethical, social, psychological and environmental effects (Cowen, 2006) In this part of the book, author satisfactorily suggests that American food system has been completely changed. He shows how modern food production has been made artificial and people are suffering with numerous health related problems. He also tries to remind readers that earlier American style of producing food was natural and health friendly. After having observed the book, its subject matter and different aspects of ‘The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals’, it is good to conclude by saying that the author has done a highly commendable job. In today’s lifestyle, people research a lot and try to know about their doctor and lawyer before getting their services but they do not know about the food that they consume. Author has presented a unique idea in respect of food system and habits of people. He does not suggest or impose his thoughts upon people but presents analytical study and leaves everything else on readers.
In sum, as lyrical as What to Eat is hard-hitting, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals…may be the best single book I read this year. This magisterial work, whose subject is nothing less than our own omnivorous (i.e., eating everything) humanity, is organized around two plants and one ecosystem. Pollan has a love-hate relationship with ‘Corn,’ the wildly successful plant that has found its way into meat (as feed), corn syrup and virtually every other type of processed food. American agribusiness’ monoculture of corn has shoved aside the old pastoral ideal of ‘Grass,’ and the self-sustaining, diversified farm based on the grass-eating livestock. In ‘The Forest,’ Pollan ponders the earliest forms of obtaining food: hunting and gathering. If you eat, you should read this book.
Cowen, T. (2006, November 1). Slate, from www.slate.com
Pollan, M. (n.d.). Michael Pollan . Retrieved July 20, 2013, from michaelpollan.com: http://michaelpollan.com/books/the-omnivores-dilemma/
Pollan, M. (2006). The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York, USA: Penguin Press.