It would not be apt to confuse protein bars and food supplements with meals or breakfast cereals with medicines. Different as they are, all three food chains are systems for doing more or less the same thing: linking us, through what we eat, to the fertility of the earth and the energy of the sun. To surmount this last problem, each flower sends out through the tip of the husk a single, sticky strand of silk (technically its “style”) to snag its own grain of pollen. According to Mr Pollan, although today we have greatly increased our food varieties, we seem to actually have more difficulty in answering the question "what should we have for dinner today". After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in. were my absolute favorites. Many anthropologists believe that the reason we evolved such big and intricate brains was precisely to help us deal with the omnivore’s dilemma. And yet the new follies we are perpetrating in our industrial food chain today are of a different order. Grab a beer for your beverage instead and you’d still be drinking corn, in the form of alcohol fermented from glucose refined from corn. Americans eat much more wheat than corn—114 pounds of wheat flour per person per year, compared to 11 pounds of corn flour. Ecology also teaches that all life on earth can be viewed as a competition among species for the solar energy captured by green plants and stored in the form of complex carbon molecules. This is something nature never does, always and for good reasons practicing diversity instead. Though we twenty-first-century eaters still eat a handful of hunted and gathered food (notably fish and wild mushrooms), my interest in this food chain was less practical than philosophical: I hoped to shed fresh light on the way we eat now by immersing myself in the way we ate then. I’ve borrowed his phrase for the title of this book because the omnivore’s dilemma turns out to be a particularly sharp tool for understanding our present predicaments surrounding food. This part of Iowa has some of the richest soil in the world, a layer of cakey alluvial loam nearly two feet thick. What would have been an unheralded botanical catastrophe in a world without humans became an incalculable evolutionary boon. The scientist can do this because all carbon is not created equal. And worse, we don’t know how to fi gure it out. Sometimes, as in the produce section, that chain is fairly short and easy to follow: As the netted bag says, this potato was grown in Idaho, that onion came from a farm in Texas. Where most plants during photosynthesis create compounds that have three carbon atoms, corn (along with a small handful of other species) make compounds that have four: hence “C-4,” the botanical nickname for this gifted group of plants, which wasn’t identified until the 1970s. that it’s all one thing, just a sea of green). Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 27, 2013. I spend a lot of time reading about, preparing, and eating food and I liked the idea of finding out more about how our modern food chain functions. Corn’s dual identity, as food and commodity, has allowed many of the peasant communities that have embraced it to make the leap from a subsistence to a market economy. The science works by identifying stable isotopes of carbon in human tissue that bear the signatures, in effect, of the different types of plants that originally took them from the air and introduced them into the food chain. (“The whole of nature,” wrote the English author William Ralph Inge, “is a conjugation of the verb to eat, in the active and passive.”) What I try to do in this book is approach the dinner question as a naturalist might, using the long lenses of ecology and anthropology, as well as the shorter, more intimate lens of personal experience. Hybridization represents a far swifter and more efficient means of communication, or feedback loop, between plant and human; by allowing humans to arrange its marriages, corn can discover in a single generation precisely what qualities it needs to prosper. Yet in time, the plant of the vanquished would conquer even the conquerors. 12,75 € Verändere dein Bewusstsein: Was uns die neue Psychedelik-Forschung über Sucht, Depression, Todesfurcht und Transzendenz lehrt Michael Pollan. Since the 1980s virtually all the sodas and most of the fruit drinks sold in the supermarket have been sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)—after water, corn sweetener is their principal ingredient. But knowledge is always good and I hope it will help me be a more responsible, ethical, and conscientious consumer. A great many of the health and environmental problems created by our food system owe to our attempts to oversimplify nature’s complexities, at both the growing and the eating ends of our food chain. Centuries before the Pilgrims arrived the plant had already spread north from central Mexico, where it is thought to have originated, all the way to New England, where Indians were probably cultivating it by 1000. There's a problem loading this menu right now. Eating puts us in touch with all that we share with the other animals, and all that sets us apart. You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition. Pgs. Humans still face an abundance of dietary choice, although for different reasons. To find out, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us—industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves—from the source to a final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating. We earthlings are, as they say, a carbon life form. Yet because those seeds are now trapped in a tough husk, the plant has lost its ability to reproduce itself—hence the catastrophe in teosinte’s sex change. But I promptly discovered that no single farm or meal could do justice to the complex, branching story of alternative agriculture right now, and that I needed also to reckon with the food chain I call, oxymoronically, the “industrial organic.” So the book’s pastoral section serves up the natural history of two very different “organic” meals: one whose ingredients came from my local Whole Foods supermarket (gathered there from as far away as Argentina), and the other tracing its origins to a single polyculture of grasses growing at Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia. Virtually overnight, Americans changed the way they eat. A mutation this freakish and maladaptive would have swiftly brought the plant to an evolutionary dead end had one of these freaks not happened to catch the eye of a human somewhere in Central America who, looking for something to eat, peeled open the husk to free the seeds. With the advent of the F-1 hybrid, a technology with the power to remake nature in the image of capitalism, Zea mays entered the industrial age and, in time, it brought the whole American food chain with it. (As far as we’re concerned, it makes little difference whether we consume relatively more or less carbon 13.). Indeed, there is every reason to believe that corn has succeeded in domesticating us. The free corn sex I’ve described allowed people to do virtually anything they wanted with the genetics of corn except own them—a big problem for a would-be capitalist plant. But in general here in flora and fauna you don’t need to be a naturalist, much less a food scientist, to know what species you’re tossing into your cart. Informative, entertaining, and often alarming, The Omnivore's Dilemma examines dietary trends, the origins of what we eat, and the impact of our food choices on the environment and our health, and sheds desperately needed light on the saying "you are what you eat." No part of the big grass went to waste: The husks could be woven into rugs and twine; the leaves and stalks made good silage for livestock; the shelled cobs were burned for heat and stacked by the privy as a rough substitute for toilet paper. No other group of species gained more from its association with humans than the edible grasses, and no grass has reaped more from agriculture than Zea mays, today the world’s most important cereal crop. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan explores how we answer the question, “What should we eat.” It traces four types of food chains from a food’s origin to the dinner table. As ecology teaches, and this book tries to show, it’s all connected, even the Twinkie. Greedy for carbon, C-4 plants can’t afford to discriminate among isotopes, and so end up with relatively more carbon 13. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma. Air-conditioned, odorless, illuminated by buzzing fluorescent tubes, the American supermarket doesn’t present itself as having very much to do with Nature. And though my journeys did take me to a great many states, and covered a great many miles, at the very end of these food chains (which is to say, at the very beginning), I invariably found myself in almost exactly the same place: a farm field in the American Corn Belt. Long before scientists understood hybridization, Native Americans had discovered that by taking the pollen from the tassel of one corn plant and dusting it on the silks of another, they could create new plants that combined the traits of both parents. It is definitely written with a clear North American focus, but in our modern globalised economy I think many of the same truths are applicable here in the UK (and around the world). ), The trick doesn’t yet, however, explain how a scientist could tell that a given carbon atom in a human bone owes its presence there to a photosynthetic event that occurred in the leaf of one kind of plant and not another—in corn, say, instead of lettuce or wheat. American Indians were the world’s first plant breeders, developing literally thousands of distinct cultivars for every conceivable environment and use. The C-4 trick represents an important economy for a plant, giving it an advantage, especially in areas where water is scarce and temperatures high. Good food should be cheap, but this really reveals the extent to which in our times, rubbish food is cheap and is often all people can afford. The Big Takeaways: There are almost too many options when it comes to food in America. For modified or unmodified starch, for glucose syrup and maltodextrin, for crystalline fructose and ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, lactic acid and lysine, for maltose and HFCS, for MSG and polyols, for the caramel color and xanthan gum, read: corn. If you are fatter, sicker and more lethargic--obese, diabetic and on the fast track to heart disease thank the processed food diet contrived by these two insidious culprits. The result of this innovation has been a vast increase in the amount of food energy available to our species; this has been a boon to humanity (allowing us to multiply our numbers), but not an unalloyed one. “Eating is an agricultural act,” as Wendell Berry famously said. Though in Meat the creaturely character of the species on display does seem to be fading, as the cows and pigs increasingly come subdivided into boneless and bloodless geometrical cuts. Michael Pollan is a journalist, and an omnivore, curious about where the food he puts in his mouth comes from. In doing so I was forced to confront some of the most elemental questions—and dilemmas—faced by the human omnivore: What are the moral and psychological implications of killing, preparing, and eating a wild animal? One way to think about America’s national eating disorder is as the return, with an almost atavistic vengeance, of the omnivore’s dilemma. The only way to recruit these carbon atoms for the molecules necessary to support life—the carbohydrates, amino acids, proteins, and lipids—is by means of photosynthesis. It begins with a farmer supporting a family on a dozen different species of plants and animals. How did we ever get to a point where we need investigative journalists to tell us where our food comes from and nutritionists to determine the dinner menu? Please try again. Indeed, we might never have needed agriculture had earlier generations of hunters not eliminated the species they depended upon. It does take some imagination to recognize the ear of corn in the Coke bottle or the Big Mac. I don't feel like there was a clear answer on what an individual could do to help the cause, but I'm sure it's not hard to find on the internet with food being such a popular subject nowadays. The book’s second part follows what I call—to distinguish it from the industrial—the pastoral food chain. More even than other domesticated species, many of which can withstand a period of human neglect, it pays for corn to be obliging—and to be so quick about it. To go from the chicken (Gallus gallus) to the Chicken McNugget is to leave this world in a journey of forgetting that could hardly be more costly, not only in terms of the animal’s pain but in our pleasure, too. If I crossed two corn plants to create a variety with an especially desirable trait, I could sell you my special seeds, but only once, since the corn you grew from my special seeds would produce lots more special seeds, for free and forever, putting me out business in short order. Some carbon atoms, called isotopes, have more than the usual complement of six protons and six neutrons, giving them a slightly different atomic weight. This shopping feature will continue to load items when the Enter key is pressed. Using sunlight as a catalyst the green cells of plants combine carbon atoms taken from the air with water and elements drawn from the soil to form the simple organic compounds that stand at the base of every food chain. 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. To take the wheel of a clattering 1975 International Harvester tractor, pulling a spidery eight-row planter through an Iowa cornfield during the first week of May, is like trying to steer a boat through a softly rolling sea of dark chocolate. Originally, the atoms of carbon from which we’re made were floating in the air, part of a carbon dioxide molecule. 17-20 -Video Upload powered by Though some foods seem more reasonable budget-wise, it is often … But even before it could master these tricks and make a place for itself in the bright sunshine of capitalism, corn first had to turn itself into something never before seen in the plant world: a form of intellectual property. In order to determine how we got to this point, Pollan decided to go back to the beginning. Beef people sounds more like it, though nowadays chicken people, which sounds not nearly so good, is probably closer to the truth of the matter. There would have been a fair amount of corn then too, but also fruits and other vegetables, as well as oats, hay, and alfalfa to feed the pigs, cattle, chickens, and horses—horses being the tractors of that time. Somehow this most elemental of activities—figuring out what to eat—has come to require a remarkable amount of expert help. Folly in the getting of our food is nothing new. C-13, for example, has six protons and seven neutrons. But the surfeit of choice brings with it a lot of stress and leads to a kind of Manichaean view of food, a division of nature into The Good Things to Eat, and The Bad. It defines us. Yet as different as these three journeys (and four meals) turned out to be, a few themes kept cropping up. The ' Omnivore's Dilemma ' is an extremely useful concept for understanding some of the paradoxes in human behaviour and psychology. Rather, it’s meant to acknowledge their abiding dependence on this miraculous grass, the staple of their diet for almost nine thousand years. The human omnivore has, in addition to his senses and memory, the incalculable advantage of a culture, which stores the experience and accumulated wisdom of countless human tasters before him. It also analyzes reviews to verify trustworthiness. Being a generalist is of course a great boon as well as a challenge; it is what allows humans to successfully inhabit virtually every terrestrial environment on the planet. Daily, our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds. I bought this on the recommendation of a friend of mine who is a farmer, and who claimed this chap "knew more than anyone else about where our food comes from", and I can see why he said that. Industrial agriculture has supplanted a complete reliance on the sun for our calories with something new under the sun: a food chain that draws much of its energy from fossil fuels instead. The last section, titled Personal, follows a kind of neo-Paleolithic food chain from the forests of Northern California to a meal I prepared (almost) exclusively from ingredients I hunted, gathered, and grew myself. (As one scientist put it, carbon supplies life’s quantity, since it is the main structural element in living matter, while much scarcer nitrogen supplies its quality—but more on that later.) The usual way a domesticated species figures out what traits its human ally will reward is through the slow and wasteful process of Darwinian trial and error. Over in fauna, on a good day you’re apt to find—beyond beef—ostrich and quail and even bison, while in Fish you can catch not just salmon and shrimp but catfish and tilapia, too. © 2020 Michael Pollan. 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