In preparing his fourth and final meal in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan begins by discussing the reasons behind wanting to make his own “perfect” meal and the challenges that come with attempting this feat. Not only did he not know the first thing about hunting or finding wild mushrooms, he also did not have a hunting license nor did he own a gun. However, with the help of Angelo Garro, Pollan was able to procure his license, borrow a gun, forage for wild mushrooms, and learn where and how to kill and prepare his very own hog. Pollan describes, as he has with the other meals throughout the course of the book, that he wants to see what it takes to know where every part of a meal comes from. What does a meal like this cost and how does it compare to a meal made with food from Safeway or a meal from McDonald’s? Pollan focuses on the biological side of his adventure and details how humans are born omnivores with teeth designed to tear both meat and grind up plants. However, unlike other animals, we depend on our “intelligence” rather than our gut to make decisions about the food that we should eat. One of the most interesting parts of this section was when Pollan discussed the cultural differences among how we eat and what we choose to eat. He compared America’s lack of cuisine to the French way of eating, where one never goes back for seconds and, much unlike America, most food is consumed in a social setting as opposed to solitarily in one’s car. Pollan then spent a lot of time discussing the ethics of eating meat and if he would be able to shoot and kill a wild animal to prepare for this meal. He details the vast disconnect that so many people experience when buying and eating meat; we no longer see animals being killed and we certainly have no part in the preparing of meat after an animal has been killed. We are completely removed from the process and we are given the choice to either continue in blissful rejection and confront what occurs and stand up for eating meat or become vegetarians. I also found it most interesting that when the author first killed his pig, he felt so proud of his accomplishment. However, after seeing a photograph of himself post- hog kill, he became completely mortified. He suggested, perhaps, that it is not the action of killing an animal that bothers us so much but our generally happy reaction to doing so that bothers us so much. To complete his meal, Pollan goes searching for wild mushrooms with the help of Angelo and discusses the many struggles that he faces from not knowing where to look and if the mushrooms he has found in the past are safe to eat. At the end of the book, Pollan creates the “perfect meal.” He admits that it was not the tastiest, but “perfect” in the sense that everything on the plate could be traced back to where it came from. He prepared everything that was served himself, though he admits that he wished he hadn’t agreed to complete such a feat without any help. I personally can’t imagine creating this “perfect” meal by myself, but I can understand the appeal of wanting to attempt this. Growing up, my grandparents had a huge garden and so I grew up eating a lot of homegrown vegetables and knowing exactly where the majority of my vegetables and fruit came from. My uncle along with many family friends hunted and gave my family lots of meat they had prepared themselves, so I completely understand why Pollan wanted to create this meal. The cost is significantly less (monetarily though perhaps not emotionally) than a meal that you can buy at McDonald’s or prepare with food from the grocery store. However, I can’t imagine doing all this by yourself and I admit it is quite impressive he was able to create an “Omnivore’s Thanksgiving” on his own. I do wonder if he would be willing to do this again or more often in order to remember the price of the food that we consume.
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