Pollan’s body of work about food is an honest attempt to hack through the jungle of marketing terms, like organic and natural, used to confuse today’s grocery shopper. It is doubtful that you will find his books in any grocery store, because it does not fit into the business of food. Rather it explains the shifting food trends that make you skinny, brilliant or youthful one day and fat, diabetic or dying the next.
If you look closely, the subtitle of the book is more illuminating, “A Natural History of Four Meals.” Pollan takes us on a journey of his own quest for meal preparation by shadowing the efforts of the farmer, the rancher, the hunter and the gatherer. He further explains how little scientists know about food as it relates to the body’s handling of it and how the gathering of it has changed in a very short period of time. His travels provide the kind of details, perspectives and conundrums that will result in more informed choices-something you won’t get from watching your favorite chef on the Food Network.
The first one hundred and twenty pages, like a Thanksgiving dinner, is a lot to digest and is best read in small helpings. Even though the book is very readable, Pollan dumps a lot of reality into your lap. Perhaps it is a bit too heavy-handed and many may give up before reading the entire book. But that would be a mistake. In fact, you may want to read the sections on Grass and The Forest before you harvest his coming to terms with today’s industrialized food network in the front of the book.
You will enjoy Pollan’s curiosity and straight-forwardness. He neither lectures nor panders. What he does do is share his knowledge from the perspective of a researcher, who presents information so that the reader may rethink what they are putting in their mouth. For those who relish clichés his book is, indeed, food for thought.