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The Omnivore's Dilemma
Cover of The Omnivore's Dilemma
The Omnivore's Dilemma
A Natural History of Four Meals
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"Outstanding . . . a wide-ranging invitation to think through the moral ramifications of our eating habits." —The New Yorker
One of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of the Year and Winner of the James Beard Award
Author of How to Change Your Mind and the #1 New York Times Bestseller In Defense of Food and Food Rules

What should we have for dinner? Ten years ago, Michael Pollan confronted us with this seemingly simple question and, with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, his brilliant and eye-opening exploration of our food choices, demonstrated that how we answer it today may determine not only our health but our survival as a species. In the years since, Pollan’s revolutionary examination has changed the way Americans think about food. Bringing wide attention to the little-known but vitally important dimensions of food and agriculture in America, Pollan launched a national conversation about what we eat and the profound consequences that even the simplest everyday food choices have on both ourselves and the natural world. Ten years later, The Omnivore’s Dilemma continues to transform the way Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.
"Outstanding . . . a wide-ranging invitation to think through the moral ramifications of our eating habits." —The New Yorker
One of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of the Year and Winner of the James Beard Award
Author of How to Change Your Mind and the #1 New York Times Bestseller In Defense of Food and Food Rules

What should we have for dinner? Ten years ago, Michael Pollan confronted us with this seemingly simple question and, with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, his brilliant and eye-opening exploration of our food choices, demonstrated that how we answer it today may determine not only our health but our survival as a species. In the years since, Pollan’s revolutionary examination has changed the way Americans think about food. Bringing wide attention to the little-known but vitally important dimensions of food and agriculture in America, Pollan launched a national conversation about what we eat and the profound consequences that even the simplest everyday food choices have on both ourselves and the natural world. Ten years later, The Omnivore’s Dilemma continues to transform the way Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.
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  • From the book

    INTRODUCTION

    Our National Eating Disorder 

    What should we have for dinner?

    This book is a long and fairly involved answer to this seemingly simple question. Along the way, it also tries to figure out how such a simple question could ever have gotten so complicated. As a culture we seem to have arrived at a place where whatever native wisdom we may once have possessed about eating has been replaced by confusion and anxiety. Somehow this most elemental of activities—figuring out what to eat—has come to require a remarkable amount of expert help. How did we ever get to a point where we need investigative journalists to tell us where our food comes from and nutritionists to determine the dinner menu?

    For me the absurdity of the situation became inescapable in the fall of 2002, when one of the most ancient and venerable staples of human life abruptly disappeared from the American dinner table. I’m talking of course about bread. Virtually overnight, Americans changed the way they eat. A collective spasm of what can only be described as carbophobia seized the country, supplanting an era of national lipophobia dating to the Carter administration. That was when, in 1977, a Senate committee had issued a set of “dietary goals” warning beef-loving Americans to lay off the red meat. And so we dutifully had done, until now.

    What set off the sea change? It appears to have been a perfect media storm of diet books, scientific studies, and one timely magazine article. The new diet books, many of them inspired by the formerly discredited Dr. Robert C. Atkins, brought Americans the welcome news that they could eat more meat and lose weight just so long as they laid off the bread and pasta. These high-protein, low-carb diets found support in a handful of new epidemiological studies suggesting that the nutritional orthodoxy that had held sway in America since the 1970s might be wrong. It was not, as official opinion claimed, fat that made us fat, but the carbohydrates we’d been eating precisely in order to stay slim. So conditions were ripe for a swing of the dietary pendulum when, in the summer of 2002, the New York Times Magazine published a cover story on the new research entitled “What if Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat?” Within months, supermarket shelves were restocked and restaurant menus rewritten to reflect the new nutritional wisdom. The blamelessness of steak restored, two of the most wholesome and uncontroversial foods known to man—bread and pasta—acquired a moral stain that promptly bankrupted dozens of bakeries and noodle firms and ruined an untold number of perfectly good meals.

    So violent a change in a culture’s eating habits is surely the sign of a national eating disorder. Certainly it would never have happened in a culture in possession of deeply rooted traditions surrounding food and eating. But then, such a culture would not feel the need for its most august legislative body to ever deliberate the nation’s “dietary goals”—or, for that matter, to wage political battle every few years over the precise design of an official government graphic called the “food pyramid.” A country with a stable culture of food would not shell out millions for the quackery (or common sense) of a new diet book every January. It would not be susceptible to the pendulum swings of food scares or fads, to the apotheosis every few years of one newly discovered nutrient and the demonization of another. It would not be apt to confuse protein bars and food supplements with meals or breakfast cereals with medicines. It probably would not eat a...

Table of Contents-
  • The Omnivore's DilemmaIntroduction: Our National Eating Disorder

    I. Industrial: Corn

    One. The Plant: Corn's Conquest
    Two. The Farm
    Three. The Elevator
    Four. The Feedlot: Making Meat
    Five. The Processing Plant: Making Complex Foods
    Six. The Consumer: A Republic of Fat
    Seven. The Meal: Fast Food

    II. Pastoral: Grass

    Eight. All Flesh Is Grass
    Nine. Big Organic
    Ten. Grass: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pasture
    Eleven. The Animals: Practicing Complexity
    Twelve. Slaughter: In a Glass Abattoir
    Thirteen. The Market: "Greetings from the Non-Barcode People"
    Fourteen. The Meal: Grass Fed

    III. Personal: The Forest

    Fifteen. The Forager
    Sixteen. The Omnivore's Dilemma
    Seventeen. The Ethics of Eating Animals
    Eighteen. Hunting: The Meat
    Nineteen. Gathering: The Fungi
    Twenty. The Perfect Meal

    Acknowledgments
    Sources
    Index

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 20, 2006


    Reviewed by Pamela Kaufman

    Pollan (The Botany of Desire
    ) examines what he calls "our national eating disorder" (the Atkins craze, the precipitous rise in obesity) in this remarkably clearheaded book. It's a fascinating journey up and down the food chain, one that might change the way you read the label on a frozen dinner, dig into a steak or decide whether to buy organic eggs. You'll certainly never look at a Chicken McNugget the same way again.
    Pollan approaches his mission not as an activist but as a naturalist: "The way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world." All food, he points out, originates with plants, animals and fungi. "ven the deathless Twinkie is constructed out of... well, precisely what
    I don't know offhand, but ultimately some sort of formerly living creature, i.e., a species
    . We haven't yet begun to synthesize our foods from petroleum, at least not directly."
    Pollan's narrative strategy is simple: he traces four meals back to their ur-species. He starts with a McDonald's lunch, which he and his family gobble up in their car. Surprise: the origin of this meal is a cornfield in Iowa. Corn feeds the steer that turns into the burgers, becomes the oil that cooks the fries and the syrup that sweetens the shakes and the sodas, and makes up 13 of the 38 ingredients (yikes) in the Chicken McNuggets.
    Indeed, one of the many eye-openers in the book is the prevalence of corn in the American diet; of the 45,000 items in a supermarket, more than a quarter contain corn. Pollan meditates on the freakishly protean nature of the corn plant and looks at how the food industry has exploited it, to the detriment of everyone from farmers to fat-and-getting-fatter Americans. Besides Stephen King, few other writers have made a corn field seem so sinister.
    Later, Pollan prepares a dinner with items from Whole Foods, investigating the flaws in the world of "big organic"; cooks a meal with ingredients from a small, utopian Virginia farm; and assembles a feast from things he's foraged and hunted.
    This may sound earnest, but Pollan isn't preachy: he's too thoughtful a writer, and too dogged a researcher, to let ideology take over. He's also funny and adventurous. He bounces around on an old International Harvester tractor, gets down on his belly to examine a pasture from a cow's-eye view, shoots a wild pig and otherwise throws himself into the making of his meals.
    I'm not convinced I'd want to go hunting with Pollan, but I'm sure I'd enjoy having dinner with him. Just as long as we could eat at a table, not in a Toyota. (Apr.)

    Pamela Kaufman is executive editor at
    Food & Wine magazine.

  • Library Journal

    April 15, 2006
    Pollan (journalism, Univ. of California, Berkeley; " The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World") defines the Omnivore's Dilemma as the confusing maze of choices facing Americans trying to eat healthfully in a society that he calls -notably unhealthy. - He seeks answers to this dilemma by taking readers through the industrial, organic, and hunter-gatherer stages of the food chain. Focusing on corn as the keystone plant in the industrial stage, Pollan describes its role in feeding cattle and in food processing as well as its ultimate destination in the products we consume at fast-food restaurants. The organic, or pastoral, stage offers a pure and chemical-free eating environment for animals and humans. In the hunter-gatherer stage, omnivores hunt animals and gather the plant foods that comprise all or part of their diets. Pollan explains how a framework of environmental, biological, and cultural factors determines what and how we eat. Although a bit long and sometimes redundant, this folksy narrative provides a wealth of information about agriculture, the natural world, and human desires. Recommended for all omnivores. [See Prepub Alert, "LJ" 12/05.]" -Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., New York"

    Copyright 2006 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • DOGO Books rozeb - This book is amazing. I am rereading it and I am realizing all over again that this book AWESOME! I will review later after I finish rereading. I'll keep you posted.
  • Booklist

    April 1, 2006
    Humans were clearly designed to eat all manner of meats, vegetables, fruits, and grains. But, as Pollan points out, America's farmers have succeeded so wildly that today's fundamental agricultural issue has become how to deal sensibly with overproduction. The result of this surfeit of grain is behemoth corn processors, who have commoditized the Aztecs' sacred grain and developed ways to separate corn into products wholly removed from its original kernels. This excess food and Americans' wealth and rapid-paced lifestyles now yield supersized portions of less-than-nutritious eatables. Pollan contrasts the technologically driven life on an Iowa corn farm's feedlots with the thriving organic farm movement supplying retailers such as Whole Foods. Pollan also addresses issues of vegetarianism and flesh eating, hunting for game, and foraging for mushrooms. Throughout, he takes care to consider all sides of issues, and he avoids jingoistic answers. Although much of this subject has been treated elsewhere, Pollan's easy writing style and unique approach freshen this contemporary debate.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2006, American Library Association.)

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A Natural History of Four Meals
Michael Pollan
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