Wednesday, August 27, 2008

REVIEW: Omnivore's Dilemma & In Defense of Food

Truly, I need to keep on top of current trends, so decided to read two of the recent Michael Pollan books to see what the fuss is about.

"Omnivore's Dilemma" takes the title from the concept that eating can be risky -- is that a good mushroom or will it make me sick? You have to take chances to learn about food, or find some other way to test it. Pollan follows the most common food ingredients through the chain and, ultimately, I think that what he has uncovered is that the Standard American Diet is making us sick.

This isn't exactly news -- Pollan's story and the way he illustrates the food chain, processing and consumption patterns is engaging and moves along at a great pace. It feels more like a description of a personal journey which I think would make this very appealing to a lot of people. It's not very didactic, and there are some funny parts in there. The chapters on hunting and mushroom hunting gave me some giggles.

Bottom line - don't eat processed food, support local farmers, even if they aren't necessarily organic (ask about "pesticide free" produce) and stop eating things that aren't food.

"In Defense of Food" was not nearly as good as Omnivore. It was basically like a beefed up magazine article -- wait, that's exactly what it was. It was a bit of a Cliff notes version of Omnivore, but definitely a good read for people who want to get the basic concepts and aren't
big readers. It also provides easy to follow guidelines for folks who need to be told what to do -- things like "Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food," "don't eat anything with more than 5 ingredients or with ingredients you can't identify or pronounce."

Mostly, just eat food, mostly plants, not too much.


A Slice of the Pie said...

I finally read Omnivore's Dilemma, but haven't read the other title. I am glad I read it as it further supported my decision to become vegetarian and feed my kids that way.

I like your summary.

Green Bean said...

I felt the same way, actually, about both books. Please make sure to give the current bookworm team member a shout out about your reviews so she can get them up on The Blogging Bookworm.

Marguerite Manteau-Rao said...

Jenn, thanks for remembering me. And for all your great comments. I am sure we will get to meet soon. Any idea when next Bay Area meetup will be?

Pollan is a great communicator. I love how he is able to make give old, sensible values a 21st Century, hip feel. I am not sure how broad is his reach, however, and how big the ripples are, will be. . .

Mihl said...

Thank you for posting on my blog!
I haven't read both of Pollan's books and what I've heard was similar to what you pointed out. I still plant to read the Omnivore's Dilemma one day.

Anonymous said...

Ahh! Yay, finally somebody who agrees with me on Teese! Thanks for the comment, it's always reassuring to know there are still vegans who avoid the processed nonsense.

And now I have some books to add to my "to read" list.

Anonymous said...

Ooops, and I forgot to add, I also enjoyed "King Corn", and would recommend it to anyone.

Jenn said...

I agree - "King Corn" is awesome - I should write a review of it. It's been a busy week!

Almost Vegetarian said...

Pollan's work is always beefed up magazine articles (he is, after all, a magazine article writer!), but it is beefed up damn good magazine articles. So even a browse is worth while, I think.