The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan, The Penguin Press, 2006, 411 pp
Here's what I like about Michael Pollan. He has a clear moral stance from which he writes. Because of that he is not merely a spectator but digs right in and does what he writes about. I mean, who else would actually buy a young steer and follow his life all the way to slaughter, standing literally in the shit of an industrial feedlot with his steer?
Ever since my hippie days, I've been involved with food. I was eating a macrobiotic diet throughout my first pregnancy and the breastfeeding of my son, who also was reared on the same dietary principles. My first husband and I founded Eden Foods in Ann Arbor, MI. One of my sisters and her husband had an organic farm in Pennsylvania during the early 70s. My other sister's husband was an original partner in Eden Foods and works in the natural food business to this day. Though I am no longer a vegetarian and in fact am a complete omnivore, I learned in the macrobiotic years that I could mostly be my own doctor and keep myself and my family reasonably healthy by being conscious about food.
The Omnivore's Dilemma was therefore highly interesting, especially for the knowledge of how industrial concepts, big money interests and globalization have made being conscious about food a very tricky proposition. But the true high point of this book was Section II, entitled "Pastoral: Grass", where Pollan captures the essence of ecology; what it really means to the health of all species and to the future of life on this planet. He shows us some incredible individuals who have figured out how to apply ecology to an agricultural model and who are compelled to live virtually "off the grid" to protect what they do from big industrial agriculture which goes hand in hand with big money and big government: the triumvirate that surely spells doom for planet Earth.
This is a long, detailed book. Reading it requires a dictionary AND Google, a willingness to learn new things and in the end perseverance just to get through it. But one more thing about Michael Pollan is the leaven here. He is serious about his subject but he does not take himself too seriously. Wry is what he is.