The Omnivore’s Dillema

No matter where you go and what you eat, you are bound to encounter instances of adulteration. Nothing is safe. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. A man’s consciousness is plagued with the question of what to do next. With recent news shedding light on the kind of debauchment that is taking place in food from major brands, eating out is out of the question now. Before you give out a sigh a relief because of home food, think again. Pesticides and insecticides in all kinds of food, leaves the body prone to all kinds of diseases. The effects won’t be immediate; rather they will become visible over a long period of time. This makes them all the more dangerous.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals is a nonfiction book by Michael Pollan published in 2006. In the book, Pollan asks the seemingly straightforward question of what we should have for dinner. As omnivores, the most unselective eaters, humans (as well as other omnivores) are faced with a wide variety of food choices, resulting in a dilemma. Pollan suggests that, prior to modern food preservation and transportation technologies, this particular dilemma were largely resolved, primarily through cultural influences. These technologies have recreated the dilemma, by making available foods that were previously seasonal or regional. The relationship between food and society, once moderated by culture, now finds itself confused. To learn more about those choices, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us; industrial food, organic food, and food we forage ourselves; from the source to a final meal, and in the process writes a critique of the American way of eating.

The book takes us on a journey in which Pollan analyses all kinds of food. It wouldn’t be ideal for us to divulge all the details right here. Feel free to grab the book on your own. The final section finds Pollan attempting to prepare a meal using only ingredients he has hunted, gathered, or grown himself. He recruits assistance from local foodies, who teach him to hunt feral pigs, gather wild mushrooms and search for abalone. He also makes a salad of greens from his own garden, bakes sourdough bread using wild yeast, and prepares a dessert from cherries picked in his neighbourhood.

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Washington State University, situated in an agricultural area of Washington state, chose this book to be part of its freshman reading program in 2009, but soon cancelled the program. Many in the university’s community, including those who run the kinds of industrial farms that The Omnivore’s Dilemma discusses, were unhappy with the selection, and speculation was that the cancellation was a result of political pressure. Elson Floyd, president of WSU, claimed instead that it was a budgetary issue, and when food safety expert Bill Marler stepped up to cover the claimed shortfall, the program was reinstated, and Pollan was invited to speak on campus.

3 thoughts on “The Omnivore’s Dillema

  1. One of the most profound changes that occurs when you produce a large percentage of your own food, is that there is no longer a question of what will we eat, but instead, what needs to be eaten. A constant effort to reduce spoilage, because food won’t refrigerate forever, you know, and the freezer can only hold so much. So every evening is really just about cleaning out of the fridge. It is so easy. I’ve thought about starting another blog devoted just to what we cook for dinner, just to show people the incredible meals we make with what needs to be eaten up from the garden, on any given day. No one eats as well. Cheers, B. J.


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