Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan

Tonights book group was a short one, but very good. We gathered at 7pm at Deborah's (a last minute venue change due to an unfortunate skiing mishap) where Christine, our official hostess was putting the finishing touches on a delightful soup.

Where possible we try to use our book selection as inspiration for the meals and Christine's task required little extrapolation. The Omnivore's Dilemma (TOD) describes the science, agriculture and industrialization of the American Dinner table. Pollan has researched the origins of four meals for his family, the typical McDonalds meal, the grass fed beef meal, an organic outing, and a meal that he 'hunted and gathered' .

We ate our organic, Washington grown chicken, in season hearty vegetable soup, local cheeses with bread from the Central Baking Company in Fremont. Over our Washington wines we opted to catch up with each other rather than diving head first into the discussion. No major announcements (no new babies, jobs or marital shifting) and we were on our way.

Everyone finished the book and other than the first seventeen pages of how corn grows, and the consensus was that the book was very enjoyable. Heather liked Pollan's ability to draw the reader into his experiences so as to feel like you were experiencing it with him. It was agreed that he wasn't preachy and that if he had an agenda for writing the book that he was able to set it aside. Mel commented that if he hadn't been so likeable that he probably wouldn't have gotten the access he did to the more industrial aspects of food production. I thought he was funny and appreciated his willingness to be laughed at. A running theme was how most of the outings were before six in the morning, and the week he spent on the farm he tried to get up early, but wasn't successful.

We discussed the aspects of food production that made us stop and think. For example, does buying Organic actually help the environment if it's trucked to your store from 1500 miles away? How often do we think about the amount of oil it takes to bring us strawberries in February? How is it that most industrial corn growers sell corn for a dollar a (pound, barrel, bushel?) less than it costs them to grow it? Why is it that if the average corn fed cow could spend the last two weeks of its life dining on grass that our risk of E. coli by 80% that we don't demand it?

We felt that the book left us with hope and a realistic call to action. Everyone - even Terri the queen of frozen food acknowledged that the book has affected their relationship with food. We're reading labels more, choosing grass fed over corn fed beef, and encouraging you to check out www.eatwild.com for a list of resources for locally grown food.

At the end of the day, the moral of TOD isn't to eat a certain way, but to know and be thoughtful about the decisions you make. Oh, and McDonalds "chicken" McNuggets are bad bad bad for you!

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