Monday, March 21, 2011

The Omnivore's Dilemma Chapters 15-18

Michael Pollan begins the third and final section of his book The Omnivore's Dilemma with the description of his final and ultimate desire in his exploration of food. This desire to prepare the ultimate meal composed of items that he has collected himself belonging to 3 basic groups: meat, plant, and fungi. He starts chapter 15 by issuing this challenge to himself. He continues the first section of chapter 15 by talking about how a hunter-gatherer lifestyle would be impossible on a national level in the modern age. In the second section, he admits his own ignorance in the areas of hunting and gathering while also adressing the tasks he will need to accomplish to prepare his meal. He talks about the need for an almost universal guide due to his lack of knowledge of nature. He eventually finds one but still knows that he needs to get liscenced to hunt in order to gather the food for his perfect meal. While waiting for his hunting class date to arrive, he educates himself about various edible plants and how to identify them. He decides to try his hand at foraging and finds a mushroom but has problem identifying it. This leads him into his chapter 16 discussion of the omnivore's dilemma. Chapter 16 was rather lengthy but it primarilly defined this dilemma, that the omnivore are faced with such a large number of different types of foods that descisions between foods are difficult because some foods are appetizing while others are harmful. In chapter 17, Pollan begins a long discussion about the ethical aspects of eating meat. He begins by talking about what made him a vegetarian and presents an exmple of how vegetarians explain the purposes behind their actions. The example that stood out most to me was that animals deserve equality in the sense that they should not be forced to feel pain. Feel free to call me heartless but I believe that God made man the dominant species on Earth and the act of killing an animal doesn't seem morally wrong to me personally, so I respectfully disagree with Pollan. He then proceeds to talk about the happiness of various types of animals, these types being wild or domesticated. He then talks about the views of veagans (which still don't make much sense to me). He concludes this chapter by talking about the various ways in which animals are killed and how this knowledge would change the eating habits of Americans if they were aware of this. The final chapter in this section, chapter 18, is a narrative and reflection on two different hunting experiences Pollan went through in his quest for a perfect meal. On his first trip, he failed to kill anything. On his second trip, he made his first kill, and got some satisfaction from it.

      When describing my experience with this book, I think the best way to put it would be that it was an formative experience. It was informative in the sense that it was good to see inside the mind of someone with very different opinions from me. I can't exactly say that he changed my views though. I still plan to eat meat on a fairly regular basis and going on a hunting trip still remains on my bucket list. The book was still an interesting read though. However, I am not sure Mr. Pollan is someone who I could sit down to a relaxed dinnertime conversation with, especially if the conversation was about what the meal being served was.

-Alex

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