Brain Pickings

Digesting the Most Important Food Politics Book of the Past 50 Years

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Up close and personal with a book whose highest aspiration is to one day be quaint.

BOOKD is a new bi-weekly series from THNKR, spotlighting “game-changing books.” The inaugural episode zooms in on Michael Pollan’s 2006 classic, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (public library) — rightfully called “the most important food politics book of the past 50 years,” and an essential lens on understanding our place, as well as our responsibility, in the natural and industrial ecosystems we inhabit and participate in. A number of famous chefs and food writers — Tom Colicchio, Dan Barber, Katie Lee, Jennifer Pelka, and of course Michael Pollan himself — discuss the book’s core claims, the urgency of its message, and its impact on contemporary culture in the half-decade since its publication.

One meal at a time is how you turn this ship… It’s not going to happen overnight. I would hope at some point in the future this book would seem quaint — that things would have changed so much in the food system that people would read it as a historical curiosity.

Realistically, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I mean, we’ll get as far as we can, but it’s going to be a lot of little maneuvers. Cheap food is baked into our economy. So we’re going to need pressure from both the consumer, voting with his or her fork, and it’s going to take changes in policy.” ~ Michael Pollan

For more essential Pollan, see his follow-up, Food Rules, illustrated by Maira Kalman — one of the best food books in 2011 — as well as this delightful stop-motion adaptation.

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