Pollan stresses the need to cook our own food and reassert the historical and cultural importance of food in our lives. Again this strengthens Pollan's rhetoric and continues the line of reasoning he began in Omnivore's Dilemma.
So it's good to be encouraged by Pollan, who eulogises the pleasures of cooking, and to be reminded of some basic truths."When you cook at home, you seldom find yourself reaching for the ethoxylated dyglycerides or high-fructose corn syrup," he says. "The cook in the kitchen preparing a meal from plants and animals has a great many worries, but 'health' is simply not one of them because it is a given."The final advice given by Pollan encapsulates it all: "Don't eat anything your greatgrandmother wouldn't recognise as food." ("Food Really Does Grow" 12)
The rhetoric of his work is demonstratively evident as his lines of reasoning attempt to make consumers more responsible for their own consumption, and overall more healthy in an intellectual and physical sense. One of my favorite passages from the work, that details all the issues of rhetoric, pathos, logos and ethos is the paragraph Pollan dedicates to describing the ethics of buying organic foods from a mass market center, in this case unseasonable asparagus from Argentina:
The ethical implications of buying such a product are almost to numerous and knotty to sort out: There's the expense, there's the prodigious amounts of energy involved, the defiance of seasonality, and the whole question of whether the best soils in South America should be devoted to growing food for affluent and overfed North Americans. And yet you can also make a good argument that my purchase of organic asparagus from Argentina generates foreign exchange for a country desperately in need of it, and supports a level of care for that country's land-farming without pesticides or chemical-fertilizer-it might not otherwise receive. Clearly my bunch of asparagus had delivered me deep into the thicket of trade-offs that global organic marketplace entails. (Pollan 175)
The passage in many ways describes the whole nature of the work. Pollan proposes a question, then a reasonable marketplace answer and then brings the consumer to the process of thought regarding the pathos, logos and ethos of the choices he or she made to reach the point in the consumer chain where he or she stands. It is fantastic.
Mr. Pollan's premise is that the lack of a traditional food culture, combined with a bewildering number of food choices (including 17,000 new products on supermarket shelves each year), contradictory scientific studies and diets galore have caused Americans to be abnormally concerned about what they eat. Obsessed with getting thin while becoming ever fatter, they bounce from one food fad (margarine is good for you) to another (carbs are bad for you).Faced with the same confusion at the supermarket as everyone else (Organic or conventional apples? Local or imported? Wild or farmed fish? Transfats or butter or the "not butter?"), Mr. Pollan concluded that before settling the dinner question he needed answers to two other questions: "What am I eating? And where in the world did it come from?" ("Food for Thought; What" B08)
Pollan's use of language and point-of-view are particularly telling of his rhetorical stance as well as good conductors of his message, which is meant to appeal not only to a food audience but to the whole of society in America, where were have unknowingly and knowingly removed ourselves from our food sources, with the goal of seeking greater convenience.
The industrial food industry takes advantage of this quandary. "It is very much in the interest of the food industry to exacerbate our anxieties about what to eat, the better to then assuage them with new products," writes Pollan. "Our bewilderment in the supermarket is no accident. "I considered myself a somewhat savvy shopper until I read this book. I buy food at a local co-op, not at Wal-Mart, though it, too, now stocks organic products. But even in the coop I can't avoid the problems of our industrial food system. The same companies that produce organic foods also sell cigarettes…. "Our food system depends on consumers' not knowing much about it beyond the price disclosed by the check out scanner," he writes. "Cheapness and ignorance are mutually reinforcing."(Dinovella 41)
The work itself when analyzed for both the what and how is staggering as it brings to the reader countless examples of food issues that have a great deal to do with the ethos of both the author and all consumers, as we continue to seek both willfully and without knowledge cheaper and more convenient foods and live on them to our own detriment. What is intrinsically interesting about the work is that with all the ethics Pollan's rhetoric never really become preachy, because he offers his ethical affronts to the food industry and consumer in an amusing and insightful way. Pollan telling the reader in short that he or she really just needs to take a much harder look at the reality of what we put in our mouths is a comical and serious portrayal of the industrialization and urbanization of food and all the concerns it raises. He also does not simply stress that consumers need to buy "organic" seek natural alternatives but even to look very closely at the way that big business draws us in even to the marketing of "better" alternatives. When Pollan introduces the final section of his work, the "hunter-gatherer" experiment he does so in a way that reiterates his point, not that foraging is a rational and practical way in which to live in modern society but that it is a form of play for those who are involved in it and that it should be used to illuminate the manner in which food is obtained and eaten, to challenge the individual to see not only the difficulty with which we once obtained food but that food has sources that are realistically mysterious and unknown. "My wager in undertaking this experiment is that hunting and gathering (or growing) a meal would perforce teach me things about ecology and ethics that I could not get in a supermarket or fast-food chain or even on a farm." (Pollan 280) Pollan's work is fundamentally an introduction to responsible consumerism, he goes out and looks at issues that many of us only hear about with regard to serious advocacy and extreme right or left wing demands, by actually living the experiences of being a blind and then knowledgeable and then responsible consumer. His work is a masterpiece of modern rhetoric because it speaks to an audience that includes all of humanity and though it does not necessarily answer all the concerns that separating food from the consumer presents it really makes one think, a main and profound aspect of the rhetorical response.
Crumbpacker, Bunny, "You Are What You Eat." The Washington Post April 9, 2006; BW09.