Saturday, January 5, 2008

Influential Book

Editing to ad this recent interview with the author in SF Chronicle.

I just finished the non-fiction book The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and it has impacted me greatly. The book analyzes our modern, global food chain and how it effects what we eat, our health, and our attitude towards food. The focus is primarily on the United States' food culture. Before reading this book, I had contemplated many of the differences in food culture between the US and Hong Kong. Here are some of my observations about the food culture here: meals and eating are an event, virtually no processed food, demand for impeccably fresh food, eating is a pleasure, lots of carbs are consumed, there are no "bad" foods, and of course, most people are thin. The book eloquently discusses why Americans are so different and worse off as a result.

In China, there is a strong reality about eating animals. Almost all meat (I am including seafood) is served on the bone and with the head. Meat is purchased from butchers who proudly display the heads and intestines of the animal, and all seafood is purchased live. If you buy a fish, it will be killed in front of you so you can ensure its freshness. There are also many places that have live chickens. Pollan takes a hard look at meat eating and vegetarianism. Since coming to Hong Kong, I have gravitated back to a mostly vegetarian diet, or more accurately, a pescatarian diet, eating seafood, but no meat. The book has really emphasized my desire to eat less or no meat, but don't misunderstand, the book does not encourage vegetarianism, but simply analyzes the pros and cons. That said, I am also concerned about the safety of seafood especially after reading this New York Times article.

I used to make fun of my parents a bit, especially my Mom with her hippy food philosophies garnered from Diet for a Small Planet, but Mom, I think you are right. The Omnivore's Dilemma may be my generation's version of Diet for a Small Planet. Unfortunately, some of those 60s food fears may be coming into actuality, just more subtly. Again, I don't want to imply The Omnivore's Dilemma is a scare tactic, because it is not. It is simply an in-depth look at the food supply and culture.

I can not express how much I enjoyed the book, and I STRONGLY encourage all of you to read it.


Anonymous said...

I'm on my way to Borders now!!

kelly said...

ok, so i've reserved my copy at the library-i'll let you know what i think. have you read animal, vegetable, miracle by barbara kingsolver? very good and lots to think about...