Reading Response 7
The third and final section of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma sounds like a grueling and extensive amount of work in order to create what, in his mind, is the perfect meal. Hmm, the Perfect Meal. My idea would not be freezing to try and hunt mushrooms in the aftermath of a forest fire, or sneaking around the woods to shoot a pig that’s bigger than I am: but what is my perfect meal? I have no idea yet.
One of the themes I found the most compelling was the reoccurring idea of guilt, or exclusion. In the chapter called “The Ethics of Eating Animals,” he describes how a person feels like they’re imposing on others because of dietary limitations that they have set upon themselves: “As a guest, if I neglect to tell my host in advance that I don’t eat meat, she feels bad, and if I do tell her, she’ll make something special for me, in which case I’ll feel bad” (Pollan 314). Right after this he talks about how exclusionary it is from the cultural traditions in America. He says, “I also feel alienated from traditions I value: cultural traditions like the Thanksgiving turkey, or even franks at the ballpark” (341). His struggles during his short trial as a vegetarian demonstrate the struggle that there is when a person “actually looks” at the horrendous meat culture and decides to do something about it, but also the elitism and guilt that can coincide with that.
The guilt of hunter’s was the one I found most interesting, mostly because it mimics that many people in the United States and possibly other parts of the world feel about food. After he shoots his wild boar, Michael Pollan is elated, ready to take on the world with a smile however, after he reflects on the pictures from that day he feels disgusted with himself. It is much like the many American’s who eat a whole cake themselves, or even just eat too much and are so thrilled from the sugar high until they get the stomach ache later. “The hunter—or at least the grown-up hunter, the uneasy hunter—recognizes the truths disclosed in both views, which is why his joy is tempered by shame, his appetite shadowed by disgust” (361). However, there aren’t just all gray clouds in the final section of the book. With this guilt, there also comes a light of hope as well.
In his closing (I love this part) he says “Without such a thing as fast food there would be no need for slow food” (411). I am sure McDonald’s is working this mantra onto a super-sized cup as we speak. Well, maybe not but it really does bring things into perspective. If a person never had really bad, junky food, they would never know what a privilege it is to be able to eat healthy. There’s guilt when we eat bad things, because we know that there are so many other foods to eat that are so much better! The last section of the book really tempers all of the terrifying things from earlier on in the book, and provides an optimistic, yet extremely conscious view of how the food world works.