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The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals Paperback – August 28, 2007
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"Thoughtful, engrossing ... You're not likely to get a better explanation of exactly where your food comes from."--The New York Times Book Review
"An eater's manifesto ... [Pollan's] cause is just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling. Be careful of your dinner!"--The Washington Post
"Outstanding... a wide-ranging invitation to think through the moral ramifications of our eating habits."--The New Yorker
"If you ever thought 'what's for dinner' was a simple question, you'll change your mind after reading Pollan's searing indictment of today's food industry-and his glimpse of some inspiring alternatives.... I just loved this book so much I didn't want it to end."--The Seattle Times
“Michael Pollan has perfected a tone—one of gleeful irony and barely suppressed outrage—and a way of inserting himself into a narrative so that a subject comes alive through what he’s feeling and thinking. He is a master at drawing back to reveal the greater issues.”—Los Angeles Times
“Michael Pollan convincingly demonstrates that the oddest meal can be found right around the corner at your local McDonald’s…. He brilliantly anatomizes the corn-based diet that has emerged
in the postwar era.”—The New York Times
“[Pollan] wants us at least to know what it is we are eating, where it came from and how it got to our table. He also wants us to be aware of the choices we make and to take responsibility for them. It’s an admirable goal, well met in The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A gripping delight…This is a brilliant, revolutionary book with huge implications for our future and a must-read for everyone. And I do mean everyone.”—The Austin Chronicle
“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.”—Newsday
“Smart, insightful, funny and often profound.”—USA Today
“The Omnivore’s Dilemma is an ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable, if sometimes unsettling, attempt to peer over these walls, to bring us closer to a true understanding of what we eat—and, by extension, what we should eat…. It is interested not only in how the consumed affects the consumer, but in how we consumers affect what we consume as well…. Entertaining and memorable. Readers of this intelligent and admirable book will almost certainly find their capacity to delight in food augmented rather than diminished.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“On the long trip from the soil to our mouths, a trip of 1,500 miles on average, the food we eat often passes through places most of us will never see. Michael Pollan has spent much of the last five years visiting these places on our behalf.”—Salon.com
“The author of Second Nature and The Botany of Desire, Pollan is willing to go to some lengths to reconnect with what he eats, even if that means putting in a hard week on an organic farm and slitting the throats of chickens. He’s not Paris Hilton on The Simple Life.”—Time
“A pleasure to read.”—The Baltimore Sun
“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 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.”—Publishers Weekly
“[Pollan] does everything from buying his own cow to helping with the open-air slaughter of pasture-raised chickens to hunting morels in Northern California. This is not a man who’s afraid of getting his hands dirty in the quest for better understanding. Along with wonderfully descriptive writing and truly engaging stories and characters, there is a full helping of serious information on the way modern food is produced.”—BookPage
“The Omnivore’s Dilemma is about something that affects everyone.”—The Sacramento Bee
“Lively and thought-provoking.”—East Bay Express
“Michael Pollan makes tracking your dinner back through the food chain that produced it a rare adventure.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“A master wordsmith…Pollan brings to the table lucid and rich prose, an enthusiasm for his topic, interesting anecdotes, a journalist’s passion for research, an ability to poke fun at himself, and an appreciation for historical context…. This is journalism at its best.”—Christianity Today
“First-rate…[A] passionate journey of the heart…Pollan is…an uncommonly graceful explainer of natural science; this is the book he was born to write.”—Newsweek
“[Pollan’s] stirring new book…is a feast, illuminating the ethical, social and environmental impacts of how and what we choose to eat.”—The Courier-Journal
“From fast food to ‘big’ organic to locally sourced to foraging for dinner with rifle in hand, Pollan captures the perils and the promise of how we eat today.”—The Arizona Daily Star
“A multivalent, highly introspective examination of the human diet, from capitalism to consumption.”—The Hudson Review
“What should you eat? Michael Pollan addresses that fundamental question with great wit and intelligence, looking at the social, ethical, and environmental impact of four different meals. Eating well, he finds, can be a pleasurable way to change the world.”—Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness
“Widely and rightly praised…The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals [is] a book that—I kid you not—may change your life.”—Austin American-Statesman
“With the skill of a professional detective, Michael Pollan explores the worlds of industrial farming, organic and sustainable agriculture, and even hunting and gathering to determine the links of food chains: how food gets from its sources in nature to our plates. The findings he reports in this this book are often unexpected, disturbing, even horrifying, but they are facts every eater should know. This is an engaging book, full of information that is most relevant to conscious living.”—Dr. Andrew Weil, author of Spontaneous Healing and Healthy Aging
“Michael Pollan is a voice of reason, a journalist/philosopher who forages in the overgrowth of our schizophrenic food culture. He’s the kind of teacher we probably all wish we had: one who triggers the little explosions of insight that change the way we eat and the way we live.”—Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse restaurant
“Michael Pollan is such a thoroughly delightful writer—his luscious sentences deliver so much pleasure and humor and surprise as they carry one from dinner table to cornfield to feedlot to forest floor, and then back again—that the happy reader could almost miss the profound truth half hidden at the heart of this beautiful book: that the reality of our politics is to be found not in what Americans do in the voting booth every four years but in what we do in the supermarket every day. Embodied in this irresistible, picaresque journey through America’s food world is a profound treatise on the hidden politics of our everyday life.”—Mark Danner, author of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror
“Every time you go into a grocery store you are voting with your dollars, and what goes into your cart has real repercussions on the future of the earth. But although we have choices, few of us are aware of exactly what they are. Michael Pollan’s beautifully written book could change that. He tears down the walls that separate us from what we eat, and forces us to be more responsible eaters. Reading this book is a wonderful, life-changing experience.”—Ruth Reichl, editor in chief of Gourmet magazine and author of Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
About the Author
Michael Pollan is the author of seven previous books, including Cooked, Food Rules, In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, all of which were New York Times bestsellers. He's also the author of the audiobook Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World. A longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine, he also teaches writing at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. In 2010, TIME magazine named him one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.
- Publisher : Penguin (August 28, 2007)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 450 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143038583
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143038580
- Lexile measure : 930L
- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.99 x 8.39 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #8,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This is a very interesting book - well thought out and investigated. I am not certain that I want to consume meat again as Pollan tells the reader how these feeder lot cows, pigs and chickens actually live and die. Really, not my idea of humane. Just as interesting is his investigation of corn. It is amazing how corn is in absolutely everything from high-fructose corn syrup to fish food; gasoline to paint; fish to .... well, you get the idea. While more and more acreage is devoted to mono-crops, chiefly corn, we are the "benefactors" of everything that is corn related. Feed lot cattle are fed corn to fatten them up even though it makes them terribly sick and reduces the number of valuable nutrients available to grass fed cows. Multiply that by lamb, chicken, goat, salmon, tilapia, shrimp and you get an idea of why you are eating corn at every meal whether you know it or not. Compound this with the fact that 3 companies control the corn product from seed to pesticide to fertilizer and this monoculture is there to get you in one way or another. Corn that can be sprayed with pesticides that kill everything except the corn - bugs, weeds..... Makes you wonder what you are eating. Anyhow, Pollan has done a wonderful job investigating the food chain and its effect on the environment be it our internal flora or life on earth.
In the name of thrift and convenience, they have perhaps irrevocably damaged our relationship to food and our relationship to farm animals who are--there's no other word for it--tortured in the name of our needs. Worse still, so few of our needs are met: farmer's are losing money, American consumers are gaining astronomical amounts of weight and destroying their health in the process, while big agri, pharma and the food industry get richer and richer at everyone's else's expense.
The first two sections of The Omnivore's Dilemma--explications of the symbiosis between corn and cattle should be required reading and taught in every elementary and high school in the country. If they were, perhaps something would be done, but don't count on it. The depressing truth is the folks that created the problem are more deeply entrenched than ever. Chapters on Organic Farms and food were worthwhile; the chapter on hunting/gathering--meh. Not so much. Or at least not for me.
Do though commit to reading the first 200 pages. They are eye-opening and motivating. And when you're finished, pass your copy to somebody you love.
Aside from the minor criticisms I outline above, I found the book excellent and thought provoking. I have even changed some of my shopping and eating habits as a result.
Top reviews from other countries
Why do you eat what you do? How was it produced? If you can answer with more than the aisle of the supermarket you bought it from, well done. If you can’t, does that worry you? Is all food created equal and of equal health benefit? Is beef from a grass-lot the same as feed-lot, or vegetables grown industrially the same as organic? Do you know the answer to that? If not, does that worry you?
Michael Pollan argues it should worry us. Three principle chains of food sustain us, all of them linking one biological system, ourselves, with another, a patch of soil. Most of us, however, remain woefully ignorant of any sort of understanding of our food systems. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan explores each of the three methods of food creation, industrial, organic, and hunter/gatherer, and examines the costs and benefits of each.
There are of course two sides to every story, and Pollan is careful to examine the benefits from cheaper food in terms of health and living standards. He’s right, and the animal rights movement sometimes unfairly ignores these benefits. The reality though is that most of us aren’t in a position to decide either way; we remain willfully blind to the reality, ignorant of what we eat and where it comes from. Perhaps the tradeoff is worth it, but we should at least be aware of the processes our food goes through, whether that means glass walls on slaughterhouses or increased education about industrial production. In the end, what you eat is a personal choice, but it’s one that should be made out of information, not ignorance.
If you want to open your eyes to the food industry and learn something, then I suggest you read this book, if not, then trot off to McDonald's.