You guys, my “delicious” bingo square was supposed to be about food. I love reading about food – cooking, restaurants, food culture, the science of taste – it’s all catnip to me. My coworkers mock me. This was supposed to be an automatic good review. It’s written by Michael Pollan. It’s in the food writing section. It’s subtitled “a natural history of four meals.” So where’s the food writing? I feel like the reader expecting Moby Dick to be an action tale and getting fifty pages describing whale blubber. I might have preferred that, actually, at least muktuk is actually food.
What I got instead was a LOT about agriculture and farming. Don’t get me wrong, I get the two are intertwined. I spend more on meat by going to a local butcher with more ethically farmed meat, because like some of Pollan’s farmer’s acolytes, it just tastes better. I’m happy if Bessie had a better life, and that’s important to me, but I won’t lie, I’d occasionally break or bend my rules if the beef from the supermarket tasted the same. Same deal with corn syrup, the texture in baking can be great, but I hate the taste. But maaaaaan is there only so much I can read about how corn came to dominate all of American food before my eyes glaze over. It’s all well written and researched, but the people interested enough to read this already know the broad strokes and those who don’t aren’t likely to be hooked.
The final chapter, describing the “zero cost” meal of foods grown, foraged, hunted, and prepared by Pollan was what I was hoping the whole book would be like, but that was a long 250 pages to get to the twenty I most enjoyed. Preaching to the choir isn’t likely to get any new converts, especially when the speech is dry as a supermarket T-bone. Pass.