The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

“What’s for dinner?” Probably the hardest question facing Americans every day. As omnivores we have endless choices and today’s supermarkets have miles of aisles of food to satisfy our needs, but maybe too many choices are not such a good thing.

My Book Club recently read and discussed this thought provoking look at the state of food and dining in America. By far one of our most lively and heated discussions we have ever had. Nothing brings people together like food and at the same time divides us as well. The author begins the book by discussing what is the American Paradox vs. let’s say the French Paradox. The French Paradox is that as a country they consume more fat and calories than most nations, but are one of the healthiest. The American Paradox is that although we aspire to healthy eating, we are one of the least healthy industrialized nations in the world. The author attributes this to several factors with one common denominator, corn.

Corn has become the basis of most of the food consumed by Americans. In fact, we consume so much corn it has actually altered the human genome. Take a look at some typical McDonald’s menu offerings and the percentage of corn and corn byproducts they contain:

Soda: 100% Milk Shake: 78% Salad Dressing: 65% Chicken Nuggets: 56% Cheeseburger: 52% French Fries: 23%

Corn, in the wrong hands, can be used for some terrible things, among them high fructose corn syrup (a major player in the obesity epidemic) and as feed for cows (who get sick when they eat it, requiring anti-biotics!) chickens and now even farm raised fish are forced to eat corn.  The governments continued subsidizing of the corn industry has made us find even more ways to use corn, i.e. ethanol which requires more energy to produce than it provides.

Omnivore’s Dilemma may not be for the faint of heart but it is a great look at where food comes from, how it’s processed and how agricultural production differs from large scale to small.  Michael Pollan took the time to answer a question that we all ask frequently….”what’s for dinner?” I highly recommend his book for its educational approach and warm writing style.

Visit Pollan’s website for more information.

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