Monday, October 11, 2010

The Omnivore's Dilemma

In the last two months, I've read two books that have impacted me more than anything I've read in a while.  I mentioned Linchpin in an earlier post, the other book is The Ominvore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  The author looks at several meals from the ground up-- literally.  He starts with a family meal from McDonald's consumed in the car, then an organic meal composed of grass fed meat, and finally a meal completely composed of food that was hunted and foraged.

The monetary cost of the final meal was essentially nothing, but the author expended an incredible amount of time 1) collecting enough food for the meal and 2) learning enough about how to find food and what is appropriate to eat.  So much time that the real cost of this meal would make this type of eating impossible for nearly everyone.  Of course, the organic meal was a little easier to get, but the monetary cost was high.  We all know that we pay more for this kind of food, which normally informs our purchasing choices, this makes local and organic inaccessible for some.  Finally, good old Mickey D's was the cheapest meal of all.  And of course, compared to the other two meals, much more prevalent in the diets of Americans and perhaps the world.

I don't know if it was the author's point, but for me, reading about the process and connections of these meals from the ground to my belly helped me to realize that we have become so distant from our food that it is unhealthy.  We are beyond the ancient days of ritual and sacrifice, but feeding ourselves still incurs a great cost.  Vegetarian or carnivore, for us to live, something will die.  I'm not even placing a value judgement on forms of life here, but the reality is that my sustenance is costly, and the less I realize that, the less value I will place on life in general. 

We've grown accustom to forking over $3-$10 for a full meal of unrecognizable food.  While this may be the best financial value, we cannot dismiss the ultimate cost this meal that is being paid through a combination of disregard for animal life, degradation of environment, taxation and government policy, declining health, and a loss of civility and social interactions among people.  I may never break out of the unhealthy cycle of consumption in which I've grown accustom to living, but I'm convinced that I must try.

Michael Pollan certainly wasn't trying to make a religious point in his book, but as a Christian, I can appreciate his contribution to the understanding of a consumer society and a return to the supposed archaic notion that our relationship with our food matters.

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