Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma

He's a very good writer, Michael Pollan - it's not that I didn't expect it, since he's got the credentials to suggest he knows which end of a pen to use, but that's what stood out for me in The Omnivore's Dilemma. I mean, I learned a fair bit about the roots of organic farming in the United States, and about state-specific American food movements and harvest seasons, but really I enjoyed how the book was put together, and that's the important takeaway for me.

Mind you, I HAVE been driving batty anyone within earshot, because there are nuggets here that everyone needs to know:
  • that when someone on the East Coast eats prepackaged organic salad grown in California, each food calorie consumed has been produced through the expenditure of fully 57 calories of fossil fuel. If the salad's not organic, then it jumps to about 60 calories
  • that laying hens in industrial operations live six to a four-square-foot cage and generally turn either to cannibalism or to self-mutilation
  • that in the old days, E.coli lived in the pH-neutral rumen of a cow, so infected people rarely died because our stomach acid would kill it. Corn-fed feedlot cows have acidic rumens, though, because corn isn't appropriate to a cow's diet, and an E.coli mutation that can live in these newly acidic rumens can't be killed by our stomach acid. It's not just that unsanitary practices in the large-scale meat industry spreads the mutated bacteria. This mutation only happened because of industrial meat practices
  • and so on.
Mostly, though, I enjoyed this book. The data I already knew, in general, and I remain after reading this book in the same unstably guilty relation to food that I've occupied since my late teens. What was new for me was the voice of Michael Pollan, and that I liked a great deal.


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