Friday, January 18, 2008

Seeds for thought

Uncharacteristically, I ordered something in response to an online offer. It was from a legit company and I did get 40 % off, so I took the bait and pushed the buttons. What I ordered was a copy of Michael Pollan's latest book, "In Defense of Food". The title alone was intriguing and accompanying reviews piqued my interest enough to complete the sale.

Michael Pollan is one of the darlings or enfant terribles (depending on which side you're on) of the new food consciousness. His most recent bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma, delivered a behind-the-scenes look at a few of the most popular and pervasive food items in our national diet. The New York Times said that "...you're not likely to get a better explanation of where your food comes from." And The New Yorker added, "...a wide-ranging invitation to think through the moral ramifications of our national eating habits."

I didn't read that book. Perhaps in a show of hubris, I told myself that I already knew where our food comes from. And I didn't want to know what I already knew in a much starker and more frustrating way. Because it isn't pretty where much of our food comes from. It often travels hundreds or thousands of miles, arriving limp and dehydrated at its destination. There it is pummeled and processed into something that might (or might not) look like food, but really has very little of its original oomph left intact. Then it is brightly wrapped and sent packing to the store shelves where it may languish for days, weeks or months -- no matter -- it is more product than produce and won't deteriorate much after the initial degradation. And thus the dilemma of our modern "omnivoric" society, accustomed to eating anything and everything, no matter the trials and trouble it must endure in order to arrive on our plates.

We are ordering seeds now. And that's where food comes from.


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