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The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals


The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals Cover

ISBN13: 9780143038580
ISBN10: 0143038583
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Krista Foley, January 30, 2010 (view all comments by Krista Foley)
Part food literature, part anthropology, part economics and politics, this book is a thoughtful and beautifully written discussion of how we relate (or don't relate) to the things we eat. Informing without preaching, the book has influenced the way I shop for food and the way I eat. My nominee for the best book I've read in the last 10 years.
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(9 of 17 readers found this comment helpful)
Josh B, January 12, 2010 (view all comments by Josh B)
This book is undeniably one of the most significant books of the decade. Its significance is not in the particular political agenda that Michael Pollan espouses but rather in the simple presentation of facts.

How much do you think about the food that you eat?

Pollan takes a hard look at four different food supply chains: factory farming, big organic, local/small organic, and foraging (which is used more for comparison than anything else). He discusses the true costs of each type of food, and the results are quite chilling.

This may not change your eating habits, but it will certainly prompt you to think about where all of your food comes from, and what we as a country are doing to our food supply.
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Laura Nugent, January 7, 2010 (view all comments by Laura Nugent)
Michael Pollan introduces a large amount of important and interesting information in a very accessible book, using the storyline and history of four meals to increase Americans' awareness of the food we eat.
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(9 of 18 readers found this comment helpful)
Nicole Dunbar, January 6, 2010 (view all comments by Nicole Dunbar)
Michael Pollan has popularized one of the most important ecological choices we can all make- local food. With clear writing and insightful comments on the state of the food system, Pollan is issuing a call to arms that we should all be following.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Ann Hudson, January 6, 2010 (view all comments by Ann Hudson)
In The Omnivore's Dilemma Michael Pollan investigates what we've been eating, and what that food (or "food") actually consists of. He does so without cynicism or sarcasm, but with clarity and curiosity, letting the facts speak for themselves. Pollan tackles a complex topic with grace, intelligence, and good humor. His writing is a pleasure to read, though the subject matter is sobering. Good food should nourish the body; this book nourishes the brain.
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Product Details

Pollan, Michael
Penguin Books
Anthropology - General
Food habits
Food preferences.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
8.53x5.53x1.00 in. .93 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals Used Trade Paper
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Product details 464 pages Penguin Books - English 9780143038580 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

True or false: One out of every four items for sale in the average American supermarket contains corn? (Think, think, think...) Believe it or not, it's true. If this unsettles you — or just plain doesn't make sense — pick up a copy of Michael Pollan's latest, which will change the way you think about nutrition and health. Pollan starts out by identifying the three principal food chains that sustain contemporary Americans. Two of them, the organic and the hunter-gatherer, have been around for a long, long time. The third, however, the industrial food chain, suddenly accounts for the bulk of our diet. The "omnivore's dilemma," we learn, refers to anxiety that accompanies an excess of options; specifically, when you can eat everything, what should you eat? One thing this book makes clear: if we are what we eat, it's getting so we hardly know ourselves at all.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , 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. "[E]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. Pamela Kaufman, Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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 corn field to feed lot 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."
"Review" by , "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
"Review" by , "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: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market
"Review" by , "His book is an eater's manifesto, and he touches on a vast array of subjects, from food fads and taboos to our avoidance of not only our food's animality, but also our own. Along the way, he is alert to his own emotions and thoughts, to see how they affect what he does and what he eats, to learn more and to explain what he knows. His approach is steeped in honesty and self-awareness. His cause is just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling."
"Review" by , "The main contribution of Omnivore's Dilemma is its scope and rigor. I know of no other book that delivers a broader picture of the U.S. food scene, how it got the way it is, and how it's changing.... [A]n important book, sweeping through broad ground with impressive primary and secondary research."
"Review" by , "Pollan is an engaging companion, whether he's diving for abalone, collecting wild yeast, or musing about American gullibility. And his message is compelling. After reading the book, you will want to change how you eat."
"Synopsis" by ,
One of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of the Year

Winner of the James Beard Award

Author of #1 New York Times Bestsellers In Defense of Food and Food Rules

Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from what can only be described as a national eating disorder. Will it be fast food tonight, or something organic? Or perhaps something we grew ourselves? The question of what to have for dinner has confronted us since man discovered fire. But as Michael Pollan explains in this revolutionary book, how we answer it now, as the dawn of the twenty-first century, may determine our survival as a species. Packed with profound surprises, The Omnivore's Dilemma is changing the way Americans thing about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.

"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 Pollans newest book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation--the story of our most trusted food experts culinary education--was published by The Penguin Press in April 2013.


"Synopsis" by ,
A New York Times bestseller that has changed the way readers view the ecology of eating, this revolutionary book by award winner Michael Pollan asks the seemingly simple question: What should we have for dinner? Tracing from source to table each of the food chains that sustain us-whether industrial or organic, alternative or processed-he develops a portrait of the American way of eating. The result is a sweeping, surprising exploration of the hungers that have shaped our evolution, and of the profound implications our food choices have for the health of our species and the future of our planet.
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