Yay for fresh veggies off the farm
I’ve been listening to a decent number of audio books over the past few years, but until now I’d never heard the same reader in 2 books of different genres. In addition to being an excellent reader for this book, Scott Brick also read the most recent Dune books. So I was mildly distracted through the first couple of discs waiting for the words “kwisatch haderack” to come out of his mouth. I guess given the epic nature of this book, it was appropriate, but a little jarring at first. 🙂
The Omnivore’s Dilemma is Michael Pollan’s big food treatise, which starts with a simple premise: trace the path of 4 meals produced in different ways from grown raw ingredients to the final meal to be eaten. As he states in the intro, it was originally going to be 3 meals: industrial, organic, and self supplied (for lack of a better term), but as he started investigating the organic industry, he realized there were really 2 camps there, the industrial organic and local organic. While the local food movement was still young in 2002, it was there, and presumably his book helped further it dramatically over the years.
There is so much in this book that is fascinating. The entire first section of the book, the industrial meal, dives into the absolute reliance of our modern food supply on cheap corn. How we got to having all this cheap corn, and the effect it has on the rest of the food chain is pretty amazing. The average american gets > 50% of his/her callories from corn. Either directly processed, or through meet that was fed cheap corn. Because industrial grown corn requires artificial fertilizer (which is petroleum based) you can calculate the gallons of oil required for a pound of corn, and even a pound of beef.
The industrial organic and local organic sections show a rich history of where the organic movement started, and where it’s ended up after scaling up to global levels. The juxtiposition of the two is amazing, and the exploration of ways to produce meat outside of the industrial system is quite compelling. You’ll learn more about the biology of many farm animals and grasses than you ever thought you would, and will be better for it.
Lastly Pollan addresses his final meal, where he is determined to grow, hunt, or gather every element of it. He makes an incredibly elaborate meal, including bread with air captured yeast, so he’s really pushing the limits as to what you can do in full hunter gatherer mode, and the results are impressive.
I would highly recommend this book to everyone. The writing style is great, and what you’ll learn along the way is invaluable to understanding many things. Why high fructose corn syrup is in everything? Why America is continuously going through food fads while the rest of the world is not? And why we spend so much of our energy on figuring out what to eat? Which is, of course, the Omnivore’s Dilemma.
I, along with much of this country, even this world, was moved by Obama’s acceptance speech yesterday. Two things really make me hopeful about this new administration. First, that expert opinions will be listened to. Many highly technical fields, including much of Science and Security, were completely run out of town in the last administration. Secondly, that you don’t need to pass a loyalty test to get within 1000 feet of the president. Rick Warren believes differently than President Obama on many fronts, many wanted him thrown out of the inaguration because of it. But now we have a President that likes to have people around him with different points of view, to challenge his assumptions, and makes sure he’s seen all sides of an issue. How refreshing is that.
And, throughout all of this, I am really impressed by this call to a new age of service. This has been a consistant message for the last many months, and it personally inspired me. Being a software guy, I have a skill that is massively needed by non profits. The tech team of non profits, if they even have one, is usually one or two fresh college graduates, with a massive turn over rate. It is a set of skills they don’t know how to hire, manage, or use, and one they can’t afford to contract. The net result is that most non profits don’t really manage to leverage all these wonderful resources out there. In the tide of this new age of service, I started thinking about what I could do to help on this front for our farm. I offered my skills over break, and things are starting to kick off now. Over the next few months I’m sure I’ll have some new experiences to post up here about the whole process.
If you are a Tech person, I highly encourage you to look out there at non profits or causes you are interested in, and step up. Become their webmaster, or spend a few hours a month helping them on some tech front. You have a set of skills they desperately need, and even a modest investment of your time and resources can do amazing things in helping out those organizations reach their goals.
Favorite thing heard at the Winter Sun CSA pickup yesterday:
We’ll send out an email once the website goes live. We were hoping it would be up by now, but we’ve been having problems. I never thought that one of the skills I’d need to have as a farmer is PHP.
This out of a conversation with the Hudson Valley Seed Library project. I’ll post a link to their website once it’s live.