Monday, February 22, 2010

My Dilemma

Pursuant to my previous posting, I’ve recently re-opened the situation with Michael Pollan, and his dilemma. I was home sick a few weeks ago and caught him on Oprah, where he didn’t immediately strike me as a pompous nutjob. I remembered that I still had his book.

In fact, during my trip to Italy in November, my friend had asked my opinion about it. A fan of the Slow Food revolution (which started there), she was eager to see what I thought. I sheepishly mentioned something vaguely about not being able to “get into it” and noted that she, mercifully, is not a big follower of my blog.

This, plus upcoming long flight to South Africa, lead me to slip it into my back before I left. Plus, I reasoned, it’s soft cover. My general travel M.O is to bring softcovers and leave them behind when I’m finished, thus lightening my load. (This does not apply to hardcovers, library books or anything I haven’t finished). So, if I finished, or got bored with Mr. Pollan, I could leave him behind.

Somewhere between Livingstone and Lusaka, while waiting for my internet connection to work, I pulled it out. (I find that distracting myself while things “load” lessens my desire to chuck the entire computer out the window). At any rate, I kind of got into it. He outlines the food chain for three types of meals: corn fed (industrial agriculture), grass fed (for lack of a better word, alternative (?) agriculture) and hunting/foraging.

Yes, he gets a little over philosophical - and down right weepy - in parts, especially about hunting. The chapters on industrial agriculture, where he uncovers the insidiousness of corn and how it has transformed our food chain was actually really interesting. I’d always wondered how corn was refined into High Fructose Corn Syrup, for example. Similarly, his outlining of the rise and dissonance between “Big” and “Little” Organic farming was quite revealing, and refreshing. Overall, the book was informative, if slanted under a liberal gaze. (Being a liberal myself, I didn’t so much mind this, but it was quite obvious in places, which I found annoying. I skimmed.)

My favorite passage was near the end, when he muses that it wouldn’t be possible to eat all meals like the first one (McDonald) or all meals like the last (foraged all by hand), but that there had to be some ground in the middle.

I still have criticism though – my book states it was a history of four meals: Corn-fed, grass-fed and foraged. That’s only three. Was this a printing typo, or was I supposed to make a meal of the book, too? I left it in the seat pocket of my flight from Lusaka to Johannesburg for the next person to figure that out.

1 comment:

Morgana said...

How funny! His stuff can be a little ungratifying sometimes,
Kudos for even reading it!
I read one of Michael Pollan's books when I was fifteen I think? Not the Omnivore's Dilemma, the toehr one, about gardening, and how lovely it is!
Although I didn't finish it, the book made me want to have a veggie garden.

At fifteen though I think I was a bit young for the philosophy side of the book as well!