Just in reading the first three paragraphs I realized I was going to like this book. Michael Pollan had made compelling points on topics I already saw in my everyday life regarding the lack of culture in food throughout our country. Its amazing to have something like the word “diet” - a word which doesn't even exist in many languages- sweep across the psyche of a nation like a tidal wave. Its odd to picture a nation in which food is viewed in terms of trends and fads which come and go with popularity spurned by what people see in magazines or on TV. He touches on two cultures so deeply rooted in their eating habits and traditions that are perceptibly happier and healthier in their eating. In his immediate comparison between the French and Italian food cultures versus that in the US (or lack thereof), I could already tell I was going to find Pollan’s examination and synopsis of the American food industry as very telling.
In the next section, I was amazed to see Pollan track everything in an average supermarket, back to the main source of corn (at one point pointing out that even the walls of the supermarket itself most likely also contained a corn derivative of some sort). Knowing that corn itself is actually a fair in-nutritious vegetable, I was shocked to read how much of it is present in almost everything we eat. Following the modicum that, “you are what you eat”, it was difficult to wrap my head around the notion that perhaps we are all just filling up on a bunch of unnecessary and in-nutritious corn fillers in all our food. My first thought about all of the corn excess was that it was naturally industry driven. I assumed That typical business interests in the American food/farming industry, just like in any other market based/capitalist American industry, drove the endorsement of corn as a cheap resource that could easily keep up with demand. Turns out, I was only partially correct. In fact, according to Pollan the monstrous demand for corn only ends up hurting corn farmers, keeping them enslaved to the production of a resource which is so overly abundant that supply will almost always outweigh demand. This made me think, then who exactly is all this corn production benefiting if not the producer or the consumer? Realizing that even the most honest attempts at a basic meal may leave us entrenched in the corporate interests of large agricultural companies, ( the only ones who do benefit from the cheap resource/ production of corn and subsequently its food products) by no chance of escaping their corn in everything, was an extremely defeating thought.
I also really liked Pollan’s examination of the organic food craze. In describing his attempt to make an organic meal he came to the conclusion that organic goods are not necessarily better, that the best route to go instead is just for the most fresh items. He went on to show that picking foods which are naturally in season and therefore more fresh once they hit the shelves of the supermarket, is often a better choice. In comparison, he shows that often organic food production companies are more so in the market of organic produce in order to obtain profit from the niche market which is growing in popularity. This thought took me right back to the original point made in Pollans’s introduction; that a general lack of food tradition/ culture in the US, leaves us vulnerably perceptive to food fads, trends, and corporate marketing schemes.