The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore's Dilemma

A Natural History of Four Meals

Book - 2006
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Random House, Inc.

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.



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What should we have for dinner?" To one degree or another this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma. Choosing from among the countless potential foods nature offers, humans have had to learn what is safe, and what isn't—which mushrooms should be avoided, for example, and which berries we can enjoy. Today, as America confronts what can only be described as a national eating disorder, the omnivore's dilemma has returned with an atavistic vengeance. The cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet has thrown us back on a bewildering landscape where we once again have to worry about which of those tasty-looking morsels might kill us. At the same time we're realizing that our food choices also have profound implications for the health of our environment. The Omnivore's Dilemma is bestselling author Michael Pollan's brilliant and eye-opening exploration of these little-known but vitally important dimensions of eating in America.

Pollan has divided The Omnivore's Dilemma into three parts, one for each of the food chains that sustain us: industrialized food, alternative or "organic" food, and food people obtain by dint of their own hunting, gathering, or gardening. Pollan follows each food chain literally from the ground up to the table, emphasizing our dynamic coevolutionary relationship with the species we depend on. He concludes each section by sitting down to a meal—at McDonald's, at home with his family sharing a dinner from Whole Foods, and in a revolutionary "beyond organic" farm in Virginia. For each meal he traces the provenance of everything consumed, revealing the hidden components we unwittingly ingest and explaining how our taste for particular foods reflects our environmental and biological inheritance.

We are indeed what we eat-and what we eat remakes the world. A society of voracious and increasingly confused omnivores, we are just beginning to recognize the profound consequences of the simplest everyday food choices, both for ourselves and for the natural world. The Omnivore's Dilemma is a long-overdue book and one that will become known for bringing a completely fresh perspective to a question as ordinary and yet momentous as What shall we have for dinner?

A few facts and figures from The Omnivore's Dilemma:

  • Of the 38 ingredients it takes to make a McNugget, there are at least 13 that are derived from corn. 45 different menu items at Mcdonald’s are made from corn.

  • One in every three American children eats fast food every day.

  • One in every five American meals today is eaten in the car.

  • The food industry burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the United States—more than we burn with our cars and more than any other industry consumes.

  • It takes ten calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate.

  • A single strawberry contains about five calories. To get that strawberry from a field in California to a plate on the east coast requires 435 calories of energy.

  • Industrial fertilizer and industrial pesticides both owe their existence to the conversion of the World War II munitions industry to civilian uses—nerve gases became pesticides, and ammonium nitrate explosives became nitrogen fertilizers.

  • ...

"What should we have for dinner?" To one degree or another this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma.

Baker & Taylor
An ecological and anthropological study of eating offers insight into food consumption in the twenty-first century, explaining how an abundance of unlimited food varieties reveals the responsibilities of everyday consumers to protect their health and the environment. By the author of The Botany of Desire. 125,000 first printing.

Baker
& Taylor

What should we have for dinner? When you can eat just about anything nature (or the supermarket) has to offer, deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety, especially when some of the foods might shorten your life. Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from a national eating disorder. As the cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast food outlet confronts us with a bewildering and treacherous landscape, what's at stake becomes not only our own and our children's health, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth. Pollan follows each of the food chains--industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves--from the source to the final meal, always emphasizing our coevolutionary relationship with the handful of plant and animal species we depend on. The surprising answers Pollan offers have profound political, economic, psychological, and even moral implications for all of us.--From publisher description.
Offers insight into food consumption in the twenty-first century, explaining how an abundance of unlimited food varieties reveals the responsibilities of consumers to protect their health and the environment.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2006.
ISBN: 9781594200823
1594200823
9780143038580
9780747586753
Characteristics: 450 p. ; 25 cm.

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l
Lou2005
Jun 26, 2019

One of the best nonfiction books I've read this decade. I thought that since it was ten years old it would already be out of date, but sadly, it is still relevant today.

JCLAMELIAM Jun 18, 2019

Michael Pollan writes about food with remarkable care, insight and curiosity. This book works to untangle some of the reasons why it seems to be so difficult to make the right choices when it comes to what's for dinner. He traces the roots of four meals - fast food, organic, local, and a meal that he has grown/butchered/fermented all himself. This book is incredibly complex, well researched, well presented, and fascinating. I love that he doesn't really come up with answers, tips, tricks, or rules. This is no diet book, it's an exploration of the ethics, origins, and philosophy of food.

HCL_staff_reviews Oct 16, 2018

The author presents straightforward and practical reasons to highlight why people, especially Americans, should question what's in our food and where it comes from. — Laura C., Eden Prairie Library

m
movar
Jan 13, 2018

Very detailed book. Pollan has a good sense of humor. He also gives many references all along. I wish this book was translated in French, faster for me to read.

l
LizSJ57
Feb 09, 2015

Loved this book. Great for expanding our critical thinking and provides lots of "food" for thought.

r
Ron
Feb 06, 2015

excelent

i
ilovesfpl8392
Jan 07, 2015

A great book about food and the choices we make

s
sharon711
Jan 03, 2015

Pollan gives us a massive amount of info about where our food comes from and how our food production systems sustain themselves (or not...).

His writing is entertaining, anecdotal, and matter-of-factual, rather than alarmist or dooms-dayish. Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma" is a must read for anyone pondering about what makes an ethical food choice for good health - both for the good of our own bodies and that of planet Earth.

It's not till towards the end that Pollan turns seriously to the subject posed in his title... the omnivore's dilemma. The book really gets to the heart of things at this point. His thoughts on animal cruelty, especially, shed a lot of light on this highly fraught subject.

All in all, I thought this an excellent nonfiction book with plenty of food for thought. But then, I'm a foodie...

l
lonnylu
Sep 06, 2012

This book gives great insight into the food system in the US. It is so easy to read and it never seems like the author is preaching to you about what you should or should not eat - just giving you the facts and his opinion.

m
meldaravaniel
Aug 24, 2012

The facts in this book frighten me, but I think it's a good fear. I've certainly become far more conscious about what I eat and where it comes from. I appreciate that Pollan says he isn't perfect, either, but this is the way our food system is. It makes it feel less like preaching and more like an honest layout.

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