The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

A Natural History of Four Meals

Format
Hardcover
Price
$26.95
 
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781594200823
  • 464 Pages
  • Penguin Press
  • Adult

Overview

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What should we have for dinner?” To one degree or another this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore’s dilemma. Choosing from among the countless potential foods nature offers, humans have had to learn what is safe, and what isn’t—which mushrooms should be avoided, for example, and which berries we can enjoy. Today, as America confronts what can only be described as a national eating disorder, the omnivore’s dilemma has returned with an atavistic vengeance. The cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet has thrown us back on a bewildering landscape where we once again have to worry about which of those tasty-looking morsels might kill us. At the same time we’re realizing that our food choices also have profound implications for the health of our environment. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is bestselling author Michael Pollan’s brilliant and eye-opening exploration of these little-known but vitally important dimensions of eating in America.

Pollan has divided The Omnivore’s Dilemma into three parts, one for each of the food chains that sustain us: industrialized food, alternative or “organic” food, and food people obtain by dint of their own hunting, gathering, or gardening. Pollan follows each food chain literally from the ground up to the table, emphasizing our dynamic coevolutionary relationship with the species we depend on. He concludes each section by sitting down to a meal—at McDonald’s, at home with his family sharing a dinner from Whole Foods, and in a revolutionary “beyond organic” farm in Virginia. For each meal he traces the provenance of everything consumed, revealing the hidden components we unwittingly ingest and explaining how our taste for particular foods reflects our environmental and biological inheritance.

We are indeed what we eat-and what we eat remakes the world. A society of voracious and increasingly confused omnivores, we are just beginning to recognize the profound consequences of the simplest everyday food choices, both for ourselves and for the natural world. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a long-overdue book and one that will become known for bringing a completely fresh perspective to a question as ordinary and yet momentous as What shall we have for dinner?

A few facts and figures from The Omnivore’s Dilemma:

  • Of the 38 ingredients it takes to make a McNugget, there are at least 13 that are derived from corn. 45 different menu items at Mcdonald’s are made from corn.
  • One in every three American children eats fast food every day.
  • One in every five American meals today is eaten in the car.
  • The food industry burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the United States—more than we burn with our cars and more than any other industry consumes.
  • It takes ten calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate.
  • A single strawberry contains about five calories. To get that strawberry from a field in California to a plate on the east coast requires 435 calories of energy.
  • Industrial fertilizer and industrial pesticides both owe their existence to the conversion of the World War II munitions industry to civilian uses—nerve gases became pesticides, and ammonium nitrate explosives became nitrogen fertilizers.
The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Michael Pollan

Awards

National Book Critics Circle Award – Winner
James Beard Book Award: Writing on Food – Winner

Praise

“‘When you can eat just about anything nature has to offer, deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety,’ Pollan writes in this supple and probing book. He gracefully navigates within these anxieties as he traces the origins of four meals—from a fast-food dinner to a “hunter-gatherer” feast—and makes us see, with remarkable clarity, exactly how what we eat affects both our bodies and the planet. Pollan is the perfect tour guide: his prose is incisive and alive, and pointed without being tendentious. In an uncommonly good year for American food writing, this is a book that stands out.” —from The New York Times Book Review’s “10 Best Books of 2006”

Table of Contents

Introduction: Our National Eating Disorder

I Industrial

Corn

One: The Plant: Corn’s Conquest

Two: The Farm

Three: The Elevator

Four: The Feedlot: Making Meat

Five: The Processing Plant: Making COmplex Foods

Six: The Consumer: A Republic of Fat

Seven: The Meal: Fast Food

II Pastoral

Grass

Eight: All Flesh is Grass

Nine: Big Organic

Ten: Grass: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pasture

Eleven: The Animals: Practicing Complexity’

Twelve: Slaughter: In a Glass Abattoir

Thirteen: The Market: “Greetings from the Non-Barcode People”

Fourteen: The Meal: Grass-Fed

III Personal

The Forest: (Hunting and Catering)

Fifteen: The Forager

Sixteen: The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Seventeen: The Ethics of Eating Animals

Eighteen: Hunting: The Meat

Nineteen: Gathering: The Fungi

Twenty: The Perfect Meal

Acknowledgments

Sources

Index

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