This may be the most important book about food since Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle drew back the curtain on the Chicago stockyards in 1906. Both books take an analytical and critical look at how food gets to our table. The New York Times named The Omnivore’s Dilemma one of the 10 best books of 2006.
Pollan documents in fascinating detail how food and feed are grown, how government influences what we eat, and how what we eat influences our health, our environment, our politics, and our humanity.
He begins by reminding those of us old enough to remember that a cross country trip in the 1970s meant the strobe of farms populated with horses, beef cattle, dairy cattle, chickens, pigs, a seasonal vegetable, and fruit trees. Now such a trip reveals unbroken rows of corn and soybeans, monotonous “monocultures.” Corn, it seems, has subsumed everything beginning with some innocent sounding decisions by the Nixon administration, and it now is the vast industry whose by-products find their way into 25% of the products in the packaged goods in the grocery store. It is in all the animals we eat, and just about everything we eat with them. It is even in the toothpaste we use to clean up after. “Tell me what you eat,” said Brillat-Savarin, “and I will tell you what you are.” We are corn.
He goes on to demonstrate how corn has allowed a handful of politically powerful huge multinational conglomerates to control pricing of almost all farm products and have driven calories per acre yields to incredible records while driving the profit per acre for the farmer to the point of bankruptcy.
He shows how the quest for cheap calories has impacted our diets and the far reaching impact on everything including our health care system. He shows the relationship of our dependance on corn on our dependance on foreign oil, and I’m not talking corn oil.
His descriptions of the confined feedlot operations (CFOs) on which cattle are fattened for slaughter are revelatory. But he is not just another food Nazi. Some of his greatest surprises are found in his section describing the organic food industry and how far it has strayed from its roots.
In the final chapter, he hunts wild hog and enters into a tortured debate with himself over the morality and the benefits and disadvantages of eating meat. He asks all the right questions, and quotes positions of proponents of many of the various positions. It is one of the most informed unbiased debates I have seen on the topic.
Pollan is insightful, thoughtful, deadly serious without being pedantic (well, just a little), and occasionally witty.
There are some slow spots in the book, but the first 200 pages are riveting. This is a must read for people who love food, love the commonwealth, and wonder what the future holds.
Published On: 6/21/2018 Last Modified: 3/7/2021
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Winner of the National BBQ Association’s product of the year award. This 8.5″ x 11″ magnet contains more that 80 benchmark temperatures for meats (both USDA recommended temps as well as the temps chefs recommend), fats and oils, sugars, sous vide, eggs, collagens, wood combustion, breads, and more. Although it is not certified as all-weather, we have tested it outdoors in Chicago weather and it has not delaminated in three years, but there is minor fading.
Napoleon’s 22″ Pro Cart Charcoal Kettle Grill puts a few spins on the familiar kettle design. In fact, the hinged lid with a handle on the front, spins in a rotary motion 180 degrees. It’s hard to beat a Weber kettle, but Napoleon holds its own and adds some unique features to make the 22″ Pro Cart a viable alternative.
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Fireboard Labs Product Photo Shoot. Kansas City Commercial Portrait and Wedding Photographers ©Kevin Ashley Photography
With the ability to monitor up to six temperatures simultaneously with either Bluetooth or Wifi on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer, Fireboard is the best digital thermometer we’ve tested.
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The PBC has a rabid cult following for good reason. It is absolutely positively without a doubt the best bargain on a smoker in the world. Period. This baby will cook circles around the cheap offset sideways barrel smokers because temperature control is so much easier.
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