Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

The Omnivore's Dilemma is actually much simpler than I expected it to be.  It comes down to one very basic question: what should we eat?  Pollan takes three different tracks throughout the book: the industrialized track (prepackaged, fast food, typically corn-based), organic food (locally produced, seasonal, made without hormones and antibiotics), and foraged food (hunting, gathering, gardening).  In each section he eats a meal created using only ingredients made with those products.

Writing
I think the writing was well-done.  As far as research is concerned, it seems as if Pollan had many first-hand experiences, but fewer data sources.  I've heard critiques that his views are simplified.  However, I think Pollan succeeds in making a sometimes difficult topic approachable.  I felt like Pollan approached the subject of where our food comes from and why it matters from a down-to-earth perspective that is easy to relate to. He doesn't advocate immediately cutting out all processed foods.  I've been really turned off by books that I feel like are attempting to guilt me into eating organic or paleo or seasonal or whatever.  Pollan did a great job of motivating me to start off with baby steps.  Since reading this we've cut out foods with high fructose corn syrup and anything partially-hydrogenated.

Entertainment Value
My other fear with this book, besides being guilt-tripped, was that the author would be boring.  After my experience with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I was leery of more preachy, not-so-interesting food books.  But Pollan really made the topic fascinating - probably because he did go on so many trips and attempt to experience first hand as much of the food industry as possible.  I also liked that he addressed things like the difficulty of finding seasonal produce in some areas, the cost of eating organic, and other issues that I feel like many other books don't address.

Overall
I wouldn't take this book as my new nutrition Bible, but I did find it very motivating.  Since reading it, we've changed some of our eating habits and have plans to change more over time.  I liked that Pollan acknowledged the problems with changing eating habits and the associated costs and took a moderate view. What I took away from the book was to, when possible, choose the least processed food product you can afford and have access to.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. I've been wanting to read this book after hearing interviews with Pollan. Like you, I'm a little bit nervous that it will require a lot of me.

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  2. Once you read it, let me know. I'd be curious to hear what you think.

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  3. Guys! I was shoked why do i eat so much after reading that book! I really recommend it! I even published an article about it The Omnivore’s Dilemma

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