Book Review: The Omnivore’s Dilemma

If I had to name one thing that most influences my cooking, it would be reading. I’m an avid reader and in the last few years I’ve been eating up many a food-related book. Not only do I find them entertaining, many have completely changed the way that I eat.

I’ve always considered myself a healthy eater. Over the years, my idea of what I considered to be healthy has changed and books have been an important part of that change. I’ll be posting reviews of books that have influenced my eating. Here’s the first one.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
By Michael Pollan
Penguin 2006

The Omnivore’s Dilemma was a “gateway drug” for me. I blame it for igniting my real-food quest, which was a slipper slope to a full-blown obsession. It’s a must read for anyone who eats. After I read it, I bought multiple copies and gave them as gifts. I thought it was enlightening and important to share.

Pollan traces the origins of four meals. The first meal is from McDonalds. This takes us through a commercial feedlot and ends up in a cornfield. Apparently, just about every bit of processed food can trace at least some of its ingredients back to corn.

The next two meals are organic. One leads us to large-scale commercial organic farming operation and the other to an innovative, self-sustaining farm, where we meet Joel Salatin of Pollyface Farms, quite the character.

The fourth meal is one that Pollan hunted, gathered, and grew himself. He takes us hunting for wild boar in California and shows us the secretive world of morels and chanterelles foragers.

This book challenged that way that I looked at food. It brought to light some of the more unseemly practices of industrial food and made me keenly aware of how political food is.