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Michael Pollan is the author of seven previous books, including Cooked, Food Rules, In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, all of which were New York Times bestsellers. He's also the author of the audiobook Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World. A longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine, he also teaches writing at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. In 2010, TIME magazine named him one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.
Examining current means of food production-industrialized, organic, and hunted-and-gathered-Pollan (The Botany of Desire) points out that we still have to consider "the omnivore's dilemma": what we eat could kill us. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Pollan (The Botany of Desire) examines what he calls "our national eating disorder" (the Atkins craze, the precipitous rise in obesity) in this remarkably clearheaded book. It's a fascinating journey up and down the food chain, one that might change the way you read the label on a frozen dinner, dig into a steak or decide whether to buy organic eggs. You'll certainly never look at a Chicken McNugget the same way again. Pollan approaches his mission not as an activist but as a naturalist: "The way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world." All food, he points out, originates with plants, animals and fungi. "[E]ven the deathless Twinkie is constructed out of... well, precisely what I don't know offhand, but ultimately some sort of formerly living creature, i.e., a species. We haven't yet begun to synthesize our foods from petroleum, at least not directly." Pollan's narrative strategy is simple: he traces four meals back to their ur-species. He starts with a McDonald's lunch, which he and his family gobble up in their car. Surprise: the origin of this meal is a cornfield in Iowa. Corn feeds the steer that turns into the burgers, becomes the oil that cooks the fries and the syrup that sweetens the shakes and the sodas, and makes up 13 of the 38 ingredients (yikes) in the Chicken McNuggets. Indeed, one of the many eye-openers in the book is the prevalence of corn in the American diet; of the 45,000 items in a supermarket, more than a quarter contain corn. Pollan meditates on the freakishly protean nature of the corn plant and looks at how the food industry has exploited it, to the detriment of everyone from farmers to fat-and-getting-fatter Americans. Besides Stephen King, few other writers have made a corn field seem so sinister. Later, Pollan prepares a dinner with items from Whole Foods, investigating the flaws in the world of "big organic"; cooks a meal with ingredients from a small, utopian Virginia farm; and assembles a feast from things he's foraged and hunted. This may sound earnest, but Pollan isn't preachy: he's too thoughtful a writer, and too dogged a researcher, to let ideology take over. He's also funny and adventurous. He bounces around on an old International Harvester tractor, gets down on his belly to examine a pasture from a cow's-eye view, shoots a wild pig and otherwise throws himself into the making of his meals. I'm not convinced I'd want to go hunting with Pollan, but I'm sure I'd enjoy having dinner with him. Just as long as we could eat at a table, not in a Toyota. (Apr.) Pamela Kaufman is executive editor at Food & Wine magazine. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Gold Medal in Nonfiction for the California Book Award - Winner of the 2007 Bay Area Book Award for Nonfiction - Winner of the 2007 James Beard Book Award/Writing on Food Category - Finalist for the 2007 Orion Book Award - Finalist for the 2007 NBCC Award
Thoughtful, engrossing ... You're not likely to get a better
explanation of exactly where your food comes from.--The New York
Times Book Review An eater's manifesto ... [Pollan's] cause is
just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling. Be
careful of your dinner!--The Washington Post Outstanding...
a wide-ranging invitation to think through the moral ramifications
of our eating habits.--The New Yorker If you ever thought
'what's for dinner' was a simple question, you'll change your mind
after reading Pollan's searing indictment of today's food
industry-and his glimpse of some inspiring alternatives.... I just
loved this book so much I didn't want it to end.--The Seattle
Times "Michael Pollan has perfected a tone--one of gleeful
irony and barely suppressed outrage--and a way of inserting himself
into a narrative so that a subject comes alive through what he's
feeling and thinking. He is a master at drawing back to reveal the
greater issues."--Los Angeles Times "Michael Pollan
convincingly demonstrates that the oddest meal can be found right
around the corner at your local McDonald's.... He brilliantly
anatomizes the corn-based diet that has emerged
in the postwar era."--The New York Times "[Pollan] wants us at least to know what it is we are eating, where it came from and how it got to our table. He also wants us to be aware of the choices we make and to take responsibility for them. It's an admirable goal, well met in The Omnivore's Dilemma."--The Wall Street Journal "A gripping delight...This is a brilliant, revolutionary book with huge implications for our future and a must-read for everyone. And I do mean everyone."--The Austin Chronicle "As lyrical as What to Eat is hard-hitting, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma A Natural History of Four Meals...may be the best single book I read this year. This magisterial work, whose subject is nothing less than our own omnivorous (i.e., eating everything) humanity, is organized around two plants and one ecosystem. Pollan has a love-hate relationship with 'Corn, ' the wildly successful plant that has found its way into meat (as feed), corn syrup and virtually every other type of processed food. American agribusiness' monoculture of corn has shoved aside the old pastoral ideal of 'Grass, ' and the self-sustaining, diversified farm based on the grass-eating livestock. In 'The Forest, ' Pollan ponders the earliest forms of obtaining food: hunting and gathering. If you eat, you should read this book."--Newsday "Smart, insightful, funny and often profound."--USA Today "The Omnivore's Dilemma is an ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable, if sometimes unsettling, attempt to peer over these walls, to bring us closer to a true understanding of what we eat--and, by extension, what we should eat.... It is interested not only in how the consumed affects the consumer, but in how we consumers affect what we consume as well.... Entertaining and memorable. Readers of this intelligent and admirable book will almost certainly find their capacity to delight in food augmented rather than diminished."--San Francisco Chronicle
"On the long trip from the soil to our mouths, a trip of 1,500 miles on average, the food we eat often passes through places most of us will never see. Michael Pollan has spent much of the last five years visiting these places on our behalf."--Salon.com "The author of Second Nature and The Botany of Desire, Pollan is willing to go to some lengths to reconnect with what he eats, even if that means putting in a hard week on an organic farm and slitting the throats of chickens. He's not Paris Hilton on The Simple Life."--Time "A pleasure to read."--The Baltimore Sun "A fascinating journey up and down the food chain, one that might change the way you read the label on a frozen dinner, dig into a steak or decide whether to buy organic eggs. You'll certainly never look at a Chicken McNugget the same way again.... Pollan isn't preachy; he's too thoughtful a writer and too dogged a researcher to let ideology take over. He's also funny and adventurous."--Publishers Weekly
"[Pollan] does everything from buying his own cow to helping with the open-air slaughter of pasture-raised chickens to hunting morels in Northern California. This is not a man who's afraid of getting his hands dirty in the quest for better understanding. Along with wonderfully descriptive writing and truly engaging stories and characters, there is a full helping of serious information on the way modern food is produced."--BookPage "The Omnivore's Dilemma is about something that affects everyone."--The Sacramento Bee "Lively and thought-provoking."--East Bay Express "Michael Pollan makes tracking your dinner back through the food chain that produced it a rare adventure."--O, The Oprah Magazine
"A master wordsmith...Pollan brings to the table lucid and rich prose, an enthusiasm for his topic, interesting anecdotes, a journalist's passion for research, an ability to poke fun at himself, and an appreciation for historical context.... This is journalism at its best."--Christianity Today "First-rate...[A] passionate journey of the heart...Pollan is...an uncommonly graceful explainer of natural science; this is the book he was born to write."--Newsweek "[Pollan's] stirring new book...is a feast, illuminating the ethical, social and environmental impacts of how and what we choose to eat."--The Courier-Journal "From fast food to 'big' organic to locally sourced to foraging for dinner with rifle in hand, Pollan captures the perils and the promise of how we eat today."--The Arizona Daily Star "A multivalent, highly introspective examination of the human diet, from capitalism to consumption."--The Hudson Review "What should you eat? Michael Pollan addresses that fundamental question with great wit and intelligence, looking at the social, ethical, and environmental impact of four different meals. Eating well, he finds, can be a pleasurable way to change the world."--Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness
"Widely and rightly praised...The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals [is] a book that--I kid you not--may change your life."--Austin American-Statesman "With the skill of a professional detective, Michael Pollan explores the worlds of industrial farming, organic and sustainable agriculture, and even hunting and gathering to determine the links of food chains: how food gets from its sources in nature to our plates. The findings he reports in this this book are often unexpected, disturbing, even horrifying, but they are facts every eater should know. This is an engaging book, full of information that is most relevant to conscious living."--Dr. Andrew Weil, author of Spontaneous Healing and Healthy Aging "Michael Pollan is a voice of reason, a journalist/philosopher who forages in the overgrowth of our schizophrenic food culture. He's the kind of teacher we probably all wish we had: one who triggers the little explosions of insight that change the way we eat and the way we live."--Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse restaurant "Michael Pollan is such a thoroughly delightful writer--his luscious sentences deliver so much pleasure and humor and surprise as they carry one from dinner table to cornfield to feedlot to forest floor, and then back again--that the happy reader could almost miss the profound truth half hidden at the heart of this beautiful book: that the reality of our politics is to be found not in what Americans do in the voting booth every four years but in what we do in the supermarket every day. Embodied in this irresistible, picaresque journey through America's food world is a profound treatise on the hidden politics of our everyday life."--Mark Danner, author of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror "Every time you go into a grocery store you are voting with your dollars, and what goes into your cart has real repercussions on the future of the earth. But although we have choices, few of us are aware of exactly what they are. Michael Pollan's beautifully written book could change that. He tears down the walls that separate us from what we eat, and forces us to be more responsible eaters. Reading this book is a wonderful, life-changing experience."--Ruth Reichl, editor in chief of Gourmet magazine and author of Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise