Do you ever find yourself envying the koala for its singular diet of eucalyptus or the monarch caterpillar for its love of milkweed? At the extreme end, maybe you envy the flora that, with photosynthesis and good soil, just needs to reach to the sun to grow and flourish. To be human takes those food sources ‘off the table’ but we have so many other options!
Our book group met and shared a meal recently (via Zoom) and discussed The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. We were all impressed with the book that had been written back in 2006 and includes an afterword added ten years later. We actually made progress toward healthier food choices in that decade! We’d heard years ago that the book contained the message, “Eat food (not nutrients), not too much, mostly vegetables,” so figured that we’d gotten the gist without spending time reading the book. It turns out that this book is so much more; the most important message is about the choices we make and the consequences of those choices as it relates to food. The omnivore’s dilemma is wondering what to eat when we’re hungry. As omnivores we have many choices. Do we swing by McDonalds or get food from Safeway? Or Whole Foods? Do we incorporate weekend visits to the farmer’s market into our routine? Do we grow and harvest our own carrots and peppers? Do we want to eat meat or seafood? We ask ourselves these kinds of questions at least three times a day every day.
Most of us are not growing our own food. Pollan explores the question “Where does our food come from?” and the answers are truly eye opening. Pollan writes with narratives that make for easy reading of a non-fiction book. We really appreciate the insights he provides about industrial agriculture, the organic and sustainable food business models, and the need for greater transparency of where our food comes from. Why is the public not allowed onto killing floors of CAFOs? What does it mean to treat animals humanely before they are slaughtered? Why is it acceptable that cows are fed an unnatural diet of corn? How is it that you likely consume more corn than any other food even without eating an ear of corn?
With great satisfaction in being responsible for his own food and being able to trace its origins, Pollan also shares his experience with foraging and hunting for a meal. Some in our group found that part inspiring to read about while others developed a greater appreciation for farmers markets and grocers!
We felt like this book was impactful as well. One group member shared that this book is taught in high schools to help kids learn about the consequences of the choices they make. Because of this book, I paid attention to news that came out recently about the Farm Bill to be renewed in 2023. Is there a role I/we can play in ensuring that our health and the health of the environment is adequately addressed?
In some good news, an article in the Washington Post reports that consumer trends are already starting to move the food industry toward increased transparency, healthier choices, and environmental stewardship.
Our next book will be Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson. We will discuss it on Tuesday, January 26 at 7 pm via Zoom. If you would like to join our discussion, please contact me.