Bigger is not better: The Omnivore’s Dilemma

As one of today’s chores I put away the 90-day supply of meds that was waiting for me in the mailbox when I got back from a weekend away. I stashed one bottle in the basket on top of the microwave that holds my suddenly-enormous collection of medications and supplements, and took the other two bottles into my cramped bathroom to store.

But where to put them? Since I occasionally think in tweets, the quip “I wish my 90-day supply of meds came with a bigger medicine cabinet in which to store them.” flew through my mind and made it’s way onto my twitter feed in short order. As I crammed the two huge jars of pills into the one Tupperware bin that holds all the overflow of my bathroom supplies I rejoiced to find the lid still fastened shut.

I don’t really want a bigger medicine cabinet. I wouldn’t mind a slightly bigger bathroom (as it stands right now, I’m not sure a long-legged person could close the door while on the toilet), and I’d love an apartment big enough for my bedroom to have a door. But any bigger than that and I would just fill the place with crap, and feel eternally guilty for giving up a life in which all of the excess stuff fits into neat plastic boxes.

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I finally finished The Omnivore’s Dilemma last week. Yes, I know this was culturally relevant five years ago, but in all honesty I put off reading it because, well, I’m an herbivore! Ok, not exactly an herbivore per se, but I don’t eat meat, mostly because of general uneasiness with the meat industries.

Michael Pollan’s book only clarified my uneasiness with meat production in the United States. His book has way too large a scope for me to respond to its entirety, but I will comment on one observation that is woven throughout most of the book: our agricultural producers have become way, way too big.

I’ve always been uneasy with things that seemed too big: casinos, amusement parks, shopping malls, even really large supermarkets. It feels unnatural to consider these behemoths individual units. But enormity has been the name of the game for decades. is it somehow un-American of me to deny this fundamental tenet of our economic system: that bigger is always better?

The research done for The Omnivore’s Dilemma proves that sometimes bigger just doesn’t work. To mass produce meats involves cutting corners and making sacrifices. Ostensibly these don’t affect the bottom line – or if they do, it’s for the better. Churning out more chicken cutlets equals higher profits, even if the chicken is poorer quality, the land is depleted, and the product is less healthy. When financial profit is the ultimate goal, who cares what other sides of the ledger show a loss?

Sometime today I need to go to the grocery store. My preferred market is tiny: 8 aisles or so, with limited selection, which is just fine with me. I don’t need 400 types of ketchup at my fingertips (although one that isn’t packed with high fructose corn syrup, would be nice: I’m not optimistic). The Omnivore’s Dilemma – what should you eat when you’re born to eat anything? – extends to those of us who don’t quite eat “anything”, but who come pretty close.

What we eat is so very important, and the way we produce what we eat has been sacred for hundreds of years. Now it has more to do with fluorescent light, flashy packaging and cross-country tractor-trailer rides than with reverence for the land or our bodies. So I’ll keep trying to keep it simple, no matter how tough it may be. Keep it simple, and keep it small.

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9 Responses to Bigger is not better: The Omnivore’s Dilemma

  1. Thanks for sharing you feedback. I enjoyed reading it. When you have the time, do drop by to my space. I just made this unique custard and would love to hear what you think 🙂

  2. Christina says:

    For me this year, the dilemma has often been Costco versus the small local food co-op. I feel much better about what I’m buying and eating from the co-op – especially since you can grind up your own peanut or almond butter now – but it’s just so expensive! I wouldn’t have such a hard time saying no to the huge mass-produced stuff if it weren’t so cheap and convenient. On another note, I’ve also been putting off reading the book, probably because it’s so popular. Is it worth it?

    • felicemifa says:

      The book was definitely worth it, although if I hadn’t been on vacation I probably would have skimmed the last 100 pages or so. At a certain point you find yourself screaming “ENOUGH WITH THE MUSHROOMS!!!” (you’ll know what I mean when you read it). It’s probably a lot of things you already know, but there are enough nuggets of knowledge and wisdom to make it worth the read.

      As for the cost issue, that is huge. One big criticism of the book is that there are lots of people who can’t afford to eat as well as he proposes. But he makes the point (which I nod to in my post) that sometimes the cost is not financial – it is a cost to our health (or to the environment, which some of us have the luxury of being concerned about).

      If anything, the book made me realize that good food is a worthy expenditure.

  3. I’m a huge fan of this book. It changes the way I think about food and confirmed my love of farmers markets and local, seasonal produce and dislike of “four legged animals” and their mass production. I now focus my meals on foods that do not come from corn or a box.

    • felicemifa says:

      Thanks so much for lending it to me! I’m not sure I have the commitment to avoid any foods with corn. IT’S EVERYWHERE. But I’m with you on avoiding food that comes in a box.

  4. A professor assigned this book a year ago and I wasn’t excited about reading it at the time (At one point I was just like, okay with the corn fields. I’ve got it. CORN.) . Now I really think it changed my perspective because it was very in-your-face. It forced me to look at some hard things that I needed to change. It is difficult to buy better food in the living situation I’m in right now, but I’m doing what I can! (And every time I do something that goes against this system, no matter how small, I may or may not silently think: “Viva La Revolución!” and think I’m kind of a bad ass rebel.)

  5. Pingback: 7 Quick Takes, volume 23 | Felice mi fa

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