Feature

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

Michael Pollan explains the different ways food reaches our mouths and how what we eat is affecting the world.

Few of us can really say anymore what's for dinner. If we could, says Michael Pollan, corn would usually be the answer. Bite into a hamburger and you're probably dining on a cow that lived on almost nothing but corn for most of its short life. Opt for the trout instead, and it's just another form of corn-fed meat. Fried in corn oil, sweetened with corn syrup, our cheapest calories trace to the crop most responsive to industrialized agriculture. Big Corn is feeding a hungry world, Pollan says. But it's also making us sick and poisoning the environment.

Pollan, the author of The Botany of Desire, isn't pointing this out to shame us, said Carol Ness in the San Francisco Chronicle. In The Omnivore's Dilemma, he carefully documents four paths that food can take before it reaches our tables, then lets readers 'œfigure out their own answers' about what they should eat. The result is an 'œintelligently gory' book, said Paul Riedinger in The San Francisco Bay Guardian. As chickens' throats are slashed, cattle are brained by so-called stunners, and Pollan himself guns down a wild boar for his most unmediated meal, you can't help but admire his 'œgameness.' His effort chases away the ignorance that separates most of us from the food we eat, and it will be interesting to see how many readers can live with what he shows us.

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