Okay, so I’m a little bit late to the game on this one. A few of those I’ve featured for my Advertiser column have been reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, but not I–until now. During my last flight back to Hawaii I picked up a copy of Michael Pollan’s journey to the source of four meals–exploring everything from the monstrous corn surplus and its effects to organic factory farming, and how it seems to be more important not what you eat, but what what you eat eats.
Though the initial section on corn seems quite long–and indeed, that’s kind of the point–the narrative is subtly engaging, Pollan’s writing personal yet knowledgeable, never off-putting or inaccessible. I haven’t yet finished it, as upon my return I had several books to review, but I find myself wishing someone would take these ideas and findings and make a food buying guide for Hawaii residents who may ask: is it better to buy local or buy organic from elsewhere? Should I eat what’s in season? Why do we export local cattle for finishing?
Instead of first lines, I’ll give you last–that is, the last lines I read before moving on to work books. Some food for thought–no pun intended.
“The fact that the nutritional quality of food (and of that food’s food) can vary not just in degree but in kind throws a big wrench into an industrial food chain, the very premise of which is that beef is beef and salmon is salmon. It also throws a new light on the whole question of cost, for if quality matters so much more than quantity, then the price of a food may bear little relation to the value of the nutrients in it. If units of omega-3s and beta-carotene and vitamin E are what an egg shopper is really after, then Joel’s $2.20 a dozen pastured eggs actually represent a better deal that the $0.79 a dozen industrial eggs at the supermarket. As long as one egg looks pretty much like another, all the chickens like chicken, and beef beef, the substitution of quantity for quality will go on unnoticed by most consumers, but it is becoming increasingly apparent to anyone with an electron microscope or a mass spectrometer that, truly, this is not the same food.”