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The omnivore's dilemma : a natural history of four meals (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Michael Pollan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
10,040272284 (4.24)413
Member:sjnorquist
Title:The omnivore's dilemma : a natural history of four meals
Authors:Michael Pollan
Info:New York : Penguin, 2007, c2006.
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Food, agricultural

Work details

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan (2006)

  1. 134
    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver (heidialice, lorax)
    lorax: More thoughtful and personal than Omnivore's Dilemma, in many ways it picks up where Pollan leaves off.
  2. 90
    In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan (marzipanz, chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: Less of a narrative than "The Omnivore's Dilemma", "In Defense of Food" is a succinct argument for considering what we eat, and includes potted advice for consumers who prefer a set of simple rules for eating. As the title suggests, this is perhaps the better analysis of the way the food industry affects the eater and what we can do about it.… (more)
  3. 40
    Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall (thebooky)
  4. 20
    Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck (night_sky)
  5. 21
    Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (crazybatcow)
    crazybatcow: Very similar perspective, though Pollan focuses more on the "process" of getting "food" to the table.
  6. 21
    In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed (Plus) by Carl Honore (Musecologist)
  7. 10
    The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability by Lierre Keith (owen1218)
  8. 00
    Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge by Gordon Edgar (Othemts)
  9. 00
    The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan (meggyweg, meggyweg)
  10. 11
    Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating by Jeffrey M. Smith (piononus)
  11. 00
    American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields by Rowan Jacobsen (DetailMuse)
  12. 01
    Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals by Karen Dawn (SqueakyChu)
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English (269)  Spanish (1)  All languages (270)
Showing 1-5 of 269 (next | show all)
Little lengthy, but really good conclusions. Makes you think! ( )
  The_reading_swimmer | Jun 21, 2015 |
The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat, Young Readers Edition
I accidentally borrowed (for Kindle) the "Young Readers" version of this book, but it strikes me as odd that it's a "Young Readers" version since I don't know anyone under 21 who would want to read it, or see the pictures in it of slaughtered animals and read about how that works. The Young Readers version also contains some handy insets that help define terms and provide supplementary information. My wife checked out the original version and had to look up words in the dictionary just to get through the Preface, so I don't regret reading this one.

Having read a sequel to this book, In Defense of Food, I was eager to read this one. I am glad that I read the sequel first, actually. Pollan is on a mission to find out where our food comes from and if it matters. He sets out to make four different meals: A modern meal (from the industrial food chain), an organic meal (which he finds out also comes from the industrial food chain), a local sustainable meal, and a hunter-gatherer meal.

The first few pages grab your attention. Pollan buys his own head of cattle and follows it to the feed lot. He spends time on a modern American corn farm and explains all the ways in which our heavily-subsidized corn affects everything else in the food chain. It requires using modified corn for which the seed has to be bought new from the manufacturer every year. It requires using a ton of nitrogen fertilizer that runs into watersheds and destroys them. It creates a whole class of farmers that would not survive without government subsidies. It takes more energy to produce the corn-based food we buy than what is in the food itself. This is truly modern innovation.

"Maltodextrin? Monosodium glutamate? Ascorbic acid? What are those things? What about lecithin and mono-, di-, and triglycerides? They are all made from corn...Even the citric acid that keeps the nugget “fresh” is made from corn... (H)alf the income of America’s corn farmers comes from government checks. It is these government checks, or subsidies, that keep corn and soybean prices low...Your soft drink or hamburger may be cheaper, but that’s because taxpayers have already paid for part of it...A box of cereal contains four cents worth of corn (or some other grain). Yet that box will sell for close to four dollars."
(For every dollar spent on food, only about 8 cents of it goes to the farmers.)

"How much of the carbon in the various McDonald’s menu items came from corn? In order from most corny to least, this is how the laboratory measured our meal: Soda (100 percent corn) Milk shake (78 percent) Salad dressing (65 percent) Chicken nuggets (56 percent) Cheeseburger (52 percent) French fries (23 percent)."

The corn-fed cattle that are slaughtered may meet their demise more humanely thanks to Temple Grandin's work, but they will not contain the Omega 3's and Omega 6's than a grass-fed cow will.
"The typoe of animal you eat may matter less than what the animal you're eating has itself eaten."


Pollan finds that due to increased demand for "organic," the organic markets have also achieved economies of scale by becoming heavily industrialized and are owned by a few large firms. The only thing that makes the food "organic" is that no pesticides were used in the process. An "organic" cow is one fed with corn that was not grown with pesticides. So, better for the environment but perhaps only marginally more healthy.

Pollan then works on a "locally sustainable" farm for a week. The farmer has worked to rehabilitate the land over the years. Cattle graze on grass, and are followed in the same spot by the chickens who pick through the cow patties and leave their own droppings to fertilize the grass to grow again. The animals are slaughtered in open-air facilities for all to see. Chickens don't die at the high rate (10%) they do on industrial farms. They are tastier and healthier, but all of the meat and produce are available seasonally. The food is sold only locally, compared to the average 1,500 miles the rest of our food travels to get to our plates.

"We have forgotten that meats used to be as seasonal as fruits and vegetables...If local food chains are going to succeed, customers will have to get used to eating that way again."

For the last meal, Pollan had to get a hunting license, and rely on the help of experts to help him find wild game and mushrooms-- plus his own garden and fruit trees found locally. It was the much harder meal to make, but the one that put him closest in touch with his food. The sheer effort -- months-- it took to put together that meal gives the reader pause.

I enjoyed this book and learned a lot about the food chain. For the last year, I have vowed to live "low on the food chain" on a mainly plant-based diet. I will also only eat meat if I know where it came from. After reading this book, my convictions are reinforced. I think Christians need to work out a theology of food and agriculture. If my friend Lucas is reading this, he is probably cringing at how late I was to figure that out. Some of the details are a little much, but it's still an easy read. 4 stars out of 5.

"I don’t want to have to forage every meal. Most people don’t want to learn to garden or hunt. But we can change the way we make and get our food so that it becomes food again—something that feeds our bodies and our souls. Imagine it: Every meal would connect us to the joy of living and the wonder of nature. Every meal would be like saying grace." ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
this book makes me want to proselytize. i have to catch myself frequently. also, i only got two thirds of the way in before i couldn't take it anymore and i had to shove onto someone. it's probably buried under a stack of papers and he doesn't realize how wonderful of a book it is. ( )
  ruinedmap | May 19, 2015 |
Never has a book taken so long for me to finish reading... ( )
  lcalvin83 | Apr 22, 2015 |
This book changed the way I think about food. Although I'm vegetarian, I imagine that anyone could enjoy this book because of Pollen's careful approach to the subject. He leaves you feeling informed, not guilty, which I think can inspire real change in the way people purchase, prepare and eat their food. ( )
  swingingnorske | Apr 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 269 (next | show all)
But for Pollan, the final outcome is less important than the meal's journey from the soil to the plate. His supermeticulous reporting is the book's strength — you're not likely to get a better explanation of exactly where your food comes from.
added by carport | editNew York Times, David Kamp (Apr 23, 2006)
 
Wonderful Book!
 

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Pollan, Michaelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haggar, DarrenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143038583, Paperback)

One of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of the Year

Winner of the James Beard Award

Author of #1 New York Times Bestsellers In Defense of Food and Food Rules


Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from what can only be described as a national eating disorder. Will it be fast food tonight, or something organic? Or perhaps something we grew ourselves? The question of what to have for dinner has confronted us since man discovered fire. But as Michael Pollan explains in this revolutionary book, how we answer it now, as the dawn of the twenty-first century, may determine our survival as a species. Packed with profound surprises, The Omnivore's Dilemma is changing the way Americans thing about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.

Coming from The Penguin Press in 2013, Michael Pollan’s newest book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation--the story of our most trusted food expert’s culinary education 

"Thoughtful, engrossing ... You're not likely to get a better explanation of exactly where your food comes from."
-The New York Times Book Review

"An eater's manifesto ... [Pollan's] cause is just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling. Be careful of your dinner!"
-The Washington Post

"Outstanding... a wide-ranging invitation to think through the moral ramifications of our eating habits."
--The New Yorker

"If you ever thought 'what's for dinner' was a simple question, you'll change your mind after reading Pollan's searing indictment of today's food industry-and his glimpse of some inspiring alternatives.... I just loved this book so much I didn't want it to end."
-The Seattle Times


 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:57 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from what can only be described as a national eating disorder. Will it be fast food tonight, or something organic? Or perhaps something we grew ourselves? The question of what to have for dinner has confronted us since man discovered fire. But as Michael Pollan explains in this revolutionary book, how we answer it now, at the dawn of the twenty-first century may determine our survival as a species.--From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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