#35in365 - Book 1 Review

My Hair's Made of Corn

What Michael Pollan Taught Me About the Modern Food Chain


Book: The Omnivore's Dilemna, by Michael Pollan

Summary: The book is divided into four sections. In each of them, Pollan takes us through one type of food production. In the first, it's the large scale farming of corn that's providing the raw material for nearly every processed food on our grocery shelves. Next up is cattle farming, where Pollan adopts a reef that he follows from infancy to slaughter. Third, Pollan does a one-week apprenticeship in a small organic farm in Virginia, where he gets up at dawn to care for animals, learns about what makes great manure, and slaughters his first chicken. Finally, Pollan takes us wild pig hunting and mushroom foraging in the Californian wilderness. Through all of these different types of food production, Pollan pulls the curtain on how food actually gets to our plate and what it takes to put a meal together when yourself alone is responsible for all the steps of food production.

Worth reading if: You like solid research interwoven with memoir-style anecdotes. Pollan goes in depth into every type of food production in America, and gives real dimension to food production with a 1st person account of what it means to produce food in North America. He talks to a variety of subject matter experts, from scientists to small farmers, and doesn't skip the nitty gritty details that take this type of book from boring to compelling.

Skip it if: You already have a solid understanding of food production in North America.

My big take away: Every processed food on the market (and sometimes not so processed) is in some way made of corn. Your soda? corn. A hamburger? Corn. Salad dressing? You guessed it, corn. Corn is everywhere! If you're looking to learn more about how corn has overtaken every shelf of the supermarket, look no further.

Bottom line: This book won't tell you what to eat, but you'll develop a greater awareness of different food systems (large scale commercial, small scale farming, hunting) and how different foods got on your plate. Worth knowing.

My next pick by the same author: Along the same lines as The Omnivore's Dilemna, 'In Defense of Food.' To mix it up, 'The Botany of Desire.'

Sabrina Alberghi