Friday, February 29, 2008

Wow! What a sad, sloggy week. I haven't been able to drag my fat ass out of bed on time all week, so all of my writing has gotten done at work on my lunch hour. Oddly enough, the writing I've been doing at work feels firmer than the writing I do at home. I think that might be because I am CLOSE TO THE END. My writing might feel surer because I need to think more carefully about the ending. Or it seems like I should.

There is also the immense distraction factor of the Dungeons and Dragons Experience going on this week. There's tons of new info coming out about the version of everyone's favorite RPG.

Thinking so hard to do.

I have just started reading the Omnivore's Dilema. I will be leading a discussion about this book at the library, in April, so I have to get on the stick now. I read the introduction and part of chapter one this week. My initial reactions was: "I hate those foodie bastards."

The introduction was... mildly preachy. Once upon a time, when I was working at the New York Public Library, I used to attend professional development seminars. Quarterly or so. Every year, one would be about poetry.

Every year one of the presenters would get up and talk about how endangered poetry is, and how endangered the world is as a result. How civilization would not continue if poetry did not continue.

Now, I'm about poetry as much as the next guy. Probably a little more. I like Stephen Dobyns, and Thomas Lynch, and Blue Oyster Cult.

But civilization will continue without poetry, dudes. Maybe not without BOC, but yes, without poetry.

In the introduction to Omnivore's Dilema, the author states that if we knew better, we would eat differently.

"But forgetting, or not knowing in the first place, is what the industrial food
chain is all about, the principal reason it is so opaque, for if we could see what lies on the far side of the increasingly high walls of our industrial agriculture, we would surely change the way we eat."

Personally, I think this is crap.

I'm assuming he means more sustainably, though I'm not sure. I haven't gotten very far into the title. He has yet to define his terms, although one of his data points is a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. I'm pretty sure that even if hunting and gathering is ecologically sustainable, it is no longer economically sustainable with a population of 6 billion and growing.

I think people eat economically. No matter what. Even if they know better. I know better. I know what people do to chickens in order to get them into a package for eating, and I eat store bought, non-organic chicken anyway.

I do make choices like mostly removing high fructose corn syrup from my diet because that choice makes economic sense to me: I don't want to end up with diabetes, like other people in my family. Preserving my health is an economic goal. But I'm not replacing Coke with any widgety foodist beverage. I'm just drinking more water and coffee.

What's more annoying than his assumption that people eat the way we do because we are ignorant, and not economical, is that the author's language about the issue becomes mystical.

"To eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life afford quite as much satisfaction. By comparison, the pleasures of eating industrially, which is to say eating in ignorance, are fleeting."

Right. Eating is a godamn mystery: a secret you can't understand unless you give your self over fully to the mystery. Like God.

This is a great attitude, if you're a foodie, and spend substantial amounts of your life reading about food, cooking, choosing groceries.

Many of us do not. We have careers non-foodie hobbies and play video games and read books that don't snark at us about our eating habits. We raise kids and spend time with our spouses.

Furthermore, nobody's ignorant of the properties of our diet. Or nobody should be. We all did nutrition modules in school. We all had annoying vegitarian friends in college. Everybody knows what the pitfalls of the modern diet are..

Nobody cares. We buy what we have a hankering for. If we're trying to loose weight, we try to eat less of it. If you're a foodie, good for you. It sounds like a great hobby. It doesn't make you magic. Like Jesus.

So, Pollan is an irritating transcendental foodie bastard. He's a good writer. He has a nice smooth narrative voice. I can only hope that the book, in addition to being fussy, is informative, so as to not be a total time waster. The first few pages of chapter 1 indicate it might be. Wish me luck.

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