Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma

Omnivore's Dilemma has been on my radar for quite some time. I am a foodie and therefore, the moment I heard about it, it landed on my (perpetually unread) to-read list of books. But even after I read (and enjoyed) articles and columns by Michael Pollan, I was hesitant to read it. For one, I am (mostly) an omnivore and I feel that far too many books on food involve giving meat eaters a guilt trip. I don't need that. And twice I have realized that someone who is really good at writing columns and articles doesn't always end up writing good books.

Well, chance plays such an important role in our lives. My book club picked this book and so I was propelled to read it. And oh, what a joy! Michael Pollan has such a fluid style of writing that before I knew it, the book was finished. And the descriptions! I felt that I was walking in Pollan's shoes as he toured the corn farm in Iowa and the Polyface Farms in Virginia and when he went mushroom hunting in the Sierras. Wow!

But what was he talking about? Well, Pollan he has an indirect manner of getting his point across. Rather than put a list of points that he wants to convey, he takes a subliminal approach. He wants you to not just read the book as an "interesting" tome, he wants you to change your life. Rather than making you think while reading the book, he plants seeds in your head - a whole garden's worth from technology, law, history, anthropology, economics, politics, environment... - which germinate after you are done reading.

My personal take on what is the at the very core of the book is the exploration of the difference between Industrial Food and Artisanal Food. While labels such as organic, farm-raised, all-natural, free-range etc. are useful, the author wants you to go beyond labels and really think about what and how you are eating. He wants you to realize that not all food is alike - food raised or grown in a factory setting is very different from those from a traditional farm. They are different in nutritional aspects, food-borne illnesses, food safety and yes, impact on our environment.

Reading this book has made me think about food a lot more than ever before. I think I can easily blame Michael for my cooking spree these days. So, go ahead and read the book. And then post the results of your cooking experiments here...

No comments: