Daily Archives: December 8, 2011

by Michael Pollan



For the most part, Pollan pulls off a neat trick.  He turns a book about feed corn, fungi, and fertilizer into a compelling page-turner – but only for about two-thirds of its length.  At a certain point, his chapters become detail-heavy and repetitive, with endless stretches of tedious facts interrupted by short bursts of unpleasantness.  Pollan is a gustatory George Plimpton – sometimes humorous, sometimes snobbish – but his book is simply too long.

The “omnivore’s dilemma” is this:  deciding what to eat that is best for the mind, body, and soul.  After reading Pollan’s descriptions of the horrors to be found at America’s slaughterhouses and processing plants, it’s tempting to eat nothing at all and opt for starvation.  In America, there are too many consumers and too much money to be made by mass producing our food in less-than-ideal conditions.  (Becoming a vegetarian or vegan does little to change our entrenched system, and it turns out that “organic” franchises like Whole Foods are nearly as ecologically unfriendly as Walmart.)

So … what is the solution to the omnivore’s dilemma?  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer – not if we don’t want to starve to death.


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