5 May 2013

Michael Pollan’s greatest strength and his greatest weakness is his romanticism. The passion that he brings to his topic allows him to write about food in a way that captures his reader’s imagination and inspires them to change their eating habits. There has been a movement to change the way we eat and grow food in America at least since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until Pollan’s 2006 The Omnivore’s Dilemma that food issues have come to the fore in our popular discourse. Pollan approaches his topic with enough imagination that he is able to show the connections between food and nearly all of the major social ills facing America today. This passion is undoubtedly an important and vital part his popularity and makes him an essential part of the history of the movement to change the way we eat and grow food in America.

Though approaching a topic with passion and romanticism is an effective way to gain support from your readers, it is not always the best way to understand an incredibly complex situation. While Pollan’s imagination allows him to make interesting connections, he often is guilty of oversimplifying. Pollan’s worst crime is the way in which he approaches history. Pollan’s complaint with the contemporary food system is entirely historical. We are experiencing the problems we find ourselves with today because of a changes that have occurred in our food system as it has become industrialized, says Pollan. The solution, too, is based on historical knowledge. One of Pollan’s central dictums is not to eat something that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

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