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The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals | [Michael Pollan]

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

"What should we have for dinner?" To one degree or another, this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma. Choosing from among the countless potential foods nature offers, humans have had to learn what is safe, and what isn't. Today, as America confronts what can only be described as a national eating disorder, the omnivore's dilemma has returned with an atavistic vengeance.
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Publisher's Summary

The best-selling author of The Botany of Desire explores the ecology of eating to unveil why we consume what we consume in the 21st century.

"What should we have for dinner?" To one degree or another, this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma. Choosing from among the countless potential foods nature offers, humans have had to learn what is safe, and what isn't, which mushrooms should be avoided, for example, and which berries we can enjoy. Today, as America confronts what can only be described as a national eating disorder, the omnivore's dilemma has returned with an atavistic vengeance.

The cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet has thrown us back on a bewildering landscape where we once again have to worry about which of those tasty-looking morsels might kill us. At the same time we're realizing that our food choices also have profound implications for the health of our environment. The Omnivore's Dilemma is best-selling author Michael Pollan's brilliant and eye-opening exploration of these little-known but vitally important dimensions of eating in America.

We are indeed what we eat, and what we eat remakes the world. A society of voracious and increasingly confused omnivores, we are just beginning to recognize the profound consequences of the simplest everyday food choices, both for ourselves and for the natural world. The Omnivore's Dilemma is a long-overdue book and one that will become known for bringing a completely fresh perspective to a question as ordinary and yet momentous as "What shall we have for dinner?"

©2006 Michael Pollan; (P)2006 Penguin Audio

What the Critics Say

  • National Book Critics Circle 2006 Award Finalist, Nonfiction

"Remarkably clearheaded book....A fascinating journey up and down the food chain." (Publishers Weekly)
"His supermeticulous reporting is the book's strength - you're not likely to get a better explanation of where your food comes from....In an uncommonly good year for American food writing, this is a book that stands out." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Completely charming." (Nora Ephron)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Elton Los angeles, CA, United States 04-29-07
    Elton Los angeles, CA, United States 04-29-07 Member Since 2004

    I teach Business, Economics, and English at a university in Tokyo. My interests are in politics, economics, and philosophy. I hold a BA in English Literature, and an MA in Political Science.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Corn as a Four Letter Word"

    So I guess Pollen doesn't like corn...I liked this book, but one thing I could not understand is the extravegant nature and methods Pollen uses to do the mundane. The lengths he goes to just to prepare a natural meal are pretty extraordinary. We do need greater transparency, especially when it comes to knowing what we are putting in our bodies for sustinance. This is clear...but I disagree with some of the subtle over statements and poor choices made by the author. He has a good point, but he should have fought the urge to indulge.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Ann Arbor, MI, USA 04-04-07
    Peter Ann Arbor, MI, USA 04-04-07 Member Since 2002
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    "great"

    loved the book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James 10-29-06
    James 10-29-06 Member Since 2006
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    "Interesting"

    It was a little slow at first but I really enjoyed this book, I would reccomend it to anyone interested in this topic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Los Angeles, CA, USA 10-21-06
    Robert Los Angeles, CA, USA 10-21-06 Member Since 2006
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    "Thought for Food"

    I listened to this book before industrial organic spinach made people sick, but Pollan's well conceived and thoroughly observed journey through our food supply prepared me to digest the news. Perhaps I was most surprised by the pervasiveness of corn in our diet, but each meal he deconstructs has its own surprises and delights.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. Rodger Gantt 08-02-06 Listener Since 2004
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    "The Omnivore's Dilemma"

    The dilemma is that we're at the top of the food chain and have too many choices to make for dinner. Behind a lot of these choices is the industrial food chain, examined in the book, which is not a pretty picture. Behind some other choices are sustainable, pastoral chains beneficial to the environment, to the links along the way and to us.

    The author, Michael Pollan, is articulate and personable. I had the feeling of being among several guests at a dinner table as he shares his insights. Never preachy or strident, the author describes the landscapes of his experiences, emotions and ideas from which we can determine for ourselves what food choices are best for us.

    The author takes us through a natural history of four meals: from the land, which produced the food, to what we're about to eat. The first is from corn to McDonalds, next is Rosie the chicken, then the truly pastoral farm and finally the author's own hunting and gathering. As we sit around the dinner table, the author reminds us that we're eating the body of the Earth.

    What is, in my opinion, an excellent book is made even better by the reader's narrative style. I've listened to a lot of audiobook readers and Scott Brick is among the best.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BJS 08-01-06
    BJS 08-01-06 Member Since 2005
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    "Fantastic"

    This is a fantastic book. The author does a great job of showing the origins of four different meals and how they go from living beings (plant or animal) to food on our plate.

    The narrator is also very good. This is third book I have heard that has been read by Scott Brick and I don't think it gets any better.

    When I first started listening to the book I thought the author was going to be a crazy PETA vegan type, but in the end he made a very reasoned argument about what is wrong with our way of eating in America. (FYI: the author is not a vegetarian). This discussion is not only from the obvious nutritional aspect, but also from the sustainability aspect of our industrial food chain.

    The entire book was enlightening and filled with interesting facts, but the first part of the book on corn (sounds boring, I know) and our utter dependence on this grain is absolutely fascinating. Most interesting fact: we use about a barrel of oil to produce an acre of corn.

    Best book I have "read" in a very long time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daina 07-27-06
    Daina 07-27-06
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    "Don't Shoot the Messenger..."

    4 1/2 Stars...

    No matter how you react to the material in this book, you will forever think differently about what is on your plate. Expect to think a bit about your willingness to "fill in the blanks" with exactly the information desired by food providers. Eat what you please, but at least understand how food gets to your table and all the costs associated thereto.

    A 5-star rating if not for questioning if the material was politically bias. I will re-listen to sort out whether or not I was being eased into a point of view or if I thoughtfully formed one. Even so, an experience in critical thinking...no matter the outcome...is of great value.



    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Arkansas 07-23-06
    Amazon Customer Arkansas 07-23-06 Member Since 2003
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    "What we eat"

    I would recommend to those who have interest in what we eat and how it comes to us. If you don't have this interest the book is to long to enjoy. Well researched and well written Pollan provides a cornacopia of information on four meals from the history of corn to an appreciation of what it means to be a hunter.
    As good as Brick is I think he is the wrong narriator. His voice brings an officious air to the book which I don't believe is intended but easy to assume.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Uri San Diego, CA, USA 07-22-06
    Uri San Diego, CA, USA 07-22-06
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    "OUtstanding book, very well read"

    Since nobody seems to dispute the quality of the book itself, I just want to say that for my taste the book was read very well.
    No excessive dramatism. I have heard over 12 audiobooks and the reader is definietly the best or 2nd best reader I have encountered.
    You can always take a listen to the sample, but the book is extraordinary, don't let the taste of a few listeners prevent you from listening to this brilliant book

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Fairbanks, AK, United States 06-28-06
    Susan Fairbanks, AK, United States 06-28-06
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    "NO MORE BRICKS!!"

    I cannot take anymore of Scott Brick's reading. It is a non-stop harangue;a scolding that goes on for hours. I have read the book and loved it and wanted to "re-read" it on my iPod, but I can't take it. If you enjoy someone preaching like it's hell and damnation around every corner, go for it. It's NOT for me!

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
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