One of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of the Year
Winner of the James Beard Award
Author of How to Change Your Mind and the #1 New York Times Bestsellers In Defense of Food and Food Rules
What should we have for dinner? Ten years ago, Michael Pollan confronted us with this seemingly simple question and, with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, his brilliant and eye-opening exploration of our food choices, demonstrated that how we answer it today may determine not only our health but our survival as a species. In the years since, Pollan’s revolutionary examination has changed the way Americans think about food. Bringing wide attention to the little-known but vitally important dimensions of food and agriculture in America, Pollan launched a national conversation about what we eat and the profound consequences that even the simplest everyday food choices have on both ourselves and the natural world. Ten years later, The Omnivore’s Dilemma continues to transform the way Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
With a simple question—what should we have for dinner?—Michael Pollan gave birth to a cultural phenomenon. Examining the country’s appetite for industrial food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma has become an enduring bestseller that’s reshaped how many Americans think about eating. Pollan’s book reintroduces us to what’s on our plate, tells us where it came from, and what sort of politics (and processed corn) went into its making. He hopes that readers will sit down for their meals “with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake,” since eating well requires attention. So dig in.
Reviewed by Pamela KaufmanPollan (The Botany of Desire) examines what he calls "our national eating disorder" (the Atkins craze, the precipitous rise in obesity) in this remarkably clearheaded book. It's a fascinating journey up and down the food chain, one that might change the way you read the label on a frozen dinner, dig into a steak or decide whether to buy organic eggs. You'll certainly never look at a Chicken McNugget the same way again.Pollan approaches his mission not as an activist but as a naturalist: "The way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world." All food, he points out, originates with plants, animals and fungi. "ven the deathless Twinkie is constructed out of... well, precisely what I don't know offhand, but ultimately some sort of formerly living creature, i.e., a species. We haven't yet begun to synthesize our foods from petroleum, at least not directly."Pollan's narrative strategy is simple: he traces four meals back to their ur-species. He starts with a McDonald's lunch, which he and his family gobble up in their car. Surprise: the origin of this meal is a cornfield in Iowa. Corn feeds the steer that turns into the burgers, becomes the oil that cooks the fries and the syrup that sweetens the shakes and the sodas, and makes up 13 of the 38 ingredients (yikes) in the Chicken McNuggets.Indeed, one of the many eye-openers in the book is the prevalence of corn in the American diet; of the 45,000 items in a supermarket, more than a quarter contain corn. Pollan meditates on the freakishly protean nature of the corn plant and looks at how the food industry has exploited it, to the detriment of everyone from farmers to fat-and-getting-fatter Americans. Besides Stephen King, few other writers have made a corn field seem so sinister.Later, Pollan prepares a dinner with items from Whole Foods, investigating the flaws in the world of "big organic"; cooks a meal with ingredients from a small, utopian Virginia farm; and assembles a feast from things he's foraged and hunted.This may sound earnest, but Pollan isn't preachy: he's too thoughtful a writer, and too dogged a researcher, to let ideology take over. He's also funny and adventurous. He bounces around on an old International Harvester tractor, gets down on his belly to examine a pasture from a cow's-eye view, shoots a wild pig and otherwise throws himself into the making of his meals. I'm not convinced I'd want to go hunting with Pollan, but I'm sure I'd enjoy having dinner with him. Just as long as we could eat at a table, not in a Toyota. Pamela Kaufman is executive editor at Food & Wine magazine.
Customer ReviewsSee All
An eye opener.
It is sad to see how dangerous is the cheap food.
FULL OF MUST KNOW INFO
This is one of the most important books that I think I’ve ever read. It really opened my eyes to some things and made me think about changes that I want to make moving forward. EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ IT.
A Little Disappointed
By at least one glaringly inaccurate statement very early in the book:
“Grab a beer for your beverage instead and you’d still be drinking corn, in the form of alcohol fermented from glucose refined from corn”
Excerpt From: Pollan, Michael. “The Omnivore's Dilemma.” Harlequin, 2006. iBooks.
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Okay, so most decent beers are composed of 4 ingredients - and corn is not one of them. There are some beers that are engineered to be brewed very inexpensively - like Corona - that use corn as an adjunct; others that use rice. But that is only a subset. You would have to grab a specific, lower quality beer to end up with corn-based drink.