My mom missed being a hippie by virtue of growing up on a farm – adopting the popular culture of the 60s and 70s just wasn’t done when you came from where she hailed. That didn’t stop her from eating like a hippie or at least that is what my family would tease her about. As a result of her health consciousness, I was allowed no sugar cereals. Even my dad joined her at times. I was allowed only one soda a day when I went to visit him during the summers and that was after he had taken a “sip.”
Due to these influences I finally gave up sodas at the age of nineteen and though I never became a vegetarian (again, that is just not done when you grow up with an ag background), I did try my fair share of soy products in college. Ultimately, I threw over the soy plant and tried to be conscious of what I ate and thought I did a pretty good job of that until I got married.
A year and a half into my marriage I had gained fifteen pounds since meeting the Southern Gent. Admittedly, I ate a few more chocolate chip cookies than I had been but overall, I put way more fruits and vegetables in my cart than my fellow Southerners who left the store with cardboard box after cardboard box of substances that to me only resembled food. To make matters worse, The Southern Gent and I walked our dogs once if not twice a day. That was way more than anyone else in our neighborhood was doing. So what was the deal?
I had always been slightly ingredient conscious but I started to take even more of an interest. When it became clear to me one day that I could not buy a loaf of bread at the grocery store without sugar in it, I felt like I had to start making some changes. I mean, unless I am eating a sweet roll, why does my bread need sugar in it? After a conversation with a friend that traveled a similar thought process, she recommended the book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” by Michael Pollan. So, off to the, you guessed it, Library, I went and checked the book out on CD. I was a little daunted at first. It is 13 discs! However, by the time I got to disc 10 I was sad there was only a couple more left.
I have struggled for a few weeks now to convey to you how much I like this book. I have rewritten this post in my mind multiple times so as not to sound like I am preaching some new food religion and have been taken up in the latest food cult. The truth is though that maybe I have; but if I have, it is a food cult of the past. A time when food was food. It was bought at the “market” and did not come from a box with ingredients I don’t understand or have the time about which to educate myself.
In a very witty narrative, Pollan follows three different food chains: corn (industrial), grass (pastoral) and the forest (personal). Ever wonder where your fast food lunch begins its life? Usually in a corn field. You thought I was going to rail against the beef industry didn’t you? Surprisingly Pollan himself is a meat eater and though he followed the life of a feedlot steer verses the life of farm animals born and butchered at their home farm, this book is not about bringing down the agriculture community. In fact, I view it as more of an invitation to us all to become a part of that agricultural community once again. Not in the sense that we all go buy four acres and live without electricity in a cabin but rather that we learn to enjoy our meals again. That we eat together and eat vegetables, meat and some grains.
After following Pollan on his journey with: the intelligent plant we call corn and its genesis far from our shores; his feedlot steer # 534, his “Paris Hilton” farmcation on a Christian, libertarian’s farm in Virginia; and his personal foraging for fungi and even shooting of a wild boar, I have found fun in cooking again. This is a compelling read that will make you laugh at yourself and our nation all while you might be cringing as well. So, have I intrigued you at all?