Like many avid readers and eaters, I recently picked up Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and found both inspiration and justification for living and eating locally. Pollan discusses the increasingly large impact that our eating decisions make on not only our bodies but also our communities, our country and our world. The book explores every omnivore's (and most vegan and vegetarian) most basic question: what's for dinner?
Pollan argues that eating is a political choice as much as it is a nutritional one: when we spend money in big box stores like WalMart and Target to purchase our food, our dollars go not to our neighbors but to large industrial food corporations that rarely have the welfare of farmers or consumers in mind. Grocery stores like Harris Teeter and Trader Joe's (both favorites here in Charlotte), are better but not great. Though I love TJ’s inexpensive proteins, pre-made pastas and organic options as much as the next girl, you have to keep in mind that they are based in California and their food is trucked in from all over the world.
In addition to discussing at length the real cost of industrial versus local food, Pollan finishes his book by attempting to make an entire meal out of food that he either hunted, foraged for or grew himself. A resident of northern California, this does not seem like it would be that hard a task. Between hunting and preparing a wild pig, foraging for mushrooms with skilled mycophiles (mushroom enthusiasts) and harvesting from his own garden, Pollan finishes his book with a momentous meal and a better understanding of how much work truly goes into the food we eat every day.
We so often take for granted the amount of resources and energy that are required to produce our food. Pollan peels back the layers of Americans’ diets and in doing so makes readers truly appreciate what they eat, regardless of where you get it from. Most importantly, he slowly builds the case throughout his book for eating local food because of its lower societal costs and high rewards.
Preachy book review over. Thursday: a fun recipe yet to be determined!