During his stint at Polyface Farm, Pollan enjoyed a connection with the land and the food in a way that most people can barely imagine, let alone experience in their own lives. Preparing to write the third part of his book, Pollan wanted to get even closer to the food supply. He wanted to make a dinner prepared wholly from ingredients he personally hunted, gathered, and grew (Pollan, 2006, p. 278). Pollan confessed that, although he had a lifetime's experience raising vegetables and eating from his garden, he had never fired a gun and was equally ill prepared to forage for fungi. He set about learning to do both.
Pollan felt uneasy about hunting after his close proximity to live animals at Polyface Farm, so he was surprised at the initial exhilaration he felt after his first kill. Pollan was soon revolted by the sight of the dead wild pig as it was prepared for consumption and then felt disgusted by the joy he had felt, however briefly, after killing the animal. The whole experience, he found, was "even messier than the moralist thinks" (Pollan, 2006, p. 361). The pig Pollan killed eventually served as the main course of a meal the author dubbed "perfect," not because of its tastes and somewhat exotic menu items but because he procured everything himself.
With the end of this meal comes the end of Pollan's book. He points out the stark contrast between this final meal, prepared at great expense with respect to time and emotion, with a meal from McDonald's he described at the beginning of the book. The meal for which he hunted and foraged is not realistic for most people to try to duplicate. The McDonald's meal, too easily duplicated, is not one he recommends as anything more than an annual treat.
As Pollan noted early in his book, fast food meals are a daily indulgence for many Americans, including children. Although the premise of Pollan's book is the distance between the food sources and end consumers, implications for the nation's health resonate clearly. Pollan does not explicitly say so, but it seems clear that there is a link to obesity and associated health problems and Americans' disconnectedness to the food they eat. It is a cause important to the health care industry. We are what we eat, and Americans are increasingly eating foods that are not good for them. A growing number of people are overweight and, paradoxically, poorly nourished.
There is unprecedented attention given to food in the United States. According to Fast Food Nation, Americans spend over $110 billion a year on fast food (Brocamp, 2006). Paradoxically, Americans also spend billions on diet books, products and programs. There are chefs on the Food Network who instruct viewers to prepare healthy dishes. Dr. Oz, the physician who rose to fame with regular stints on Oprah Winfrey's show, provides viewers with a considerable amount of information on taking care of themselves through healthy eating. Websites and magazine articles abound. There is no shortage of information and one would think that everyone would know by now what to do to eat healthfully. The art and science of medicine is advanced and there is more knowledge available than ever to the layman. Yet obesity and its related health issues are rampant. Health care professionals must continue to educate the public about nutrition and the consequences of eating too much high-sugar, high-fat processed foods.
The Omnivore's Dilemma does not tell readers exactly what they must or must not eat. Instead, Pollan urges us to eat mindfully. That is something clearly missing from modern life, when most people find themselves gulping meals and snacks with little thought. As Pollan points out, there is plenty of food available that is bad for us. There are also ways we can eat better, without having to resort to the drastic experiments of which Pollan writes. He invites us to be discerning and think about what we eat.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Overweight and obesity: Data and statistics.
Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/index.html
Brocamp, R. (2006). Stop eating your retirement. The Motley Fool. Retrieved from…