The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

omnivores_dilemma_by_michael_pollan1So far the tone of this book is disgustingly hippish. I think it presents some interesting data, but the way it presents it is so annoying:

– everything modern is bad
– everything mainstream is bad
– the only good alternative is primitive farms
– food and nature is a mystery that we cannot grasp so all efforts to synthesize fertilizers, pesticides, etc are doom to fail
– the natural cycle of chickens, cows, pigs, etc is perfect and shouldn’t be tampered with (mind you, these animals are almost as artificial as computers these days).

The part that annoys me the most is how it attributes negative connotations to the term agrobusiness. The definition of that word is “the businesses collectively associated with the production, processing, and distribution of agricultural products”, so, his idyllic small farms are as much agrobusinesses as the Monsatos he criticizes.

Another example I found ridiculous is when a farmer would refuse to ship him some food because burning fossil fuels to deliver his product was against his principles and instead told him: “If you want to try it, you’ll have to drive here”. Guess what! Driving to a location burns more fossil fuels than shipping a small package through highly efficient delivery companies (unless you drive an electric car and even then, I’m not sure).

I understand if the recommendations of the author were for an individual but he often talks about society as a whole without exploring the economic implications of using much more manual labor to produce food: can we actually feed the world with traditional farms? I don’t know and I have an inkling that the answer is probably very complex and not explored a lot in this book that advocates everybody to eat from those traditional farms.


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You think airline food sucks?

Vegetarian Meal #3 by James Perkins

You think airline food sucks? Try being vegetarian. I’m not a spoiled whiner, I truly appreciate being able to cross an ocean over night and I’m fine with the mass produced food they serve in airplane. Everybody complains about the food, but when you are vegetarian, you go into a new level of pain.

The first part of the pain: requesting it. I request the vegetarian food several times. I already had requests lost, ignored, not honored, whatever. I request it on the web, by phone, by carrier pigeon, etc. Several times each. Even then, there’s no guarantee.

Then it comes the second part: the crew. I just finished my breakfast in a flight from Madrid to Buenos Aires (yes, I wrote this on the airplane) with the best and the worst of the crew. I’ll describe both to be fair.

One flight attendant gave me the special food. She said “You ordered special food? ” and I replied “Yes, vegetarian “, and she handed me the long yellow box. I opened it and found little pieces of burned carcasses of chicken. I checked the label… definitely not vegetarian.

When another flight attendant came I told him about my food and they had a short conversation. Basically all non-standard food was distributed equally. Someone who should have gotten chicken was eating my vegetarian food. This is the norm. The crew will screw it up. In my experience almost always. I very rarely get an uneventful flight.

The flight attendant to whom I reported the issue was a little bit upset about the other messing up and here’s the good part: he went and picked vegetarian food from other meals and built a special box for me. To that guy, J. M. Anton: Thank you, I really appreciate what you did… you turned a terrible flight and a lot of anger into a pleasurable experience (loved the little piece of chocolate).

Should everything go well you still have to deal with the food. You may think that when everybody gets a cheese and ham sandwich you’d get a cheese sandwich. WRONG. You may imagine that when everybody gets spaghetti with meatballs you’d get plain spaghetti. WRONG. You get an insipid salad (for breakfast) or some gooey boiled vegetables. On this flight I was lucky to get some rice (next to the gooey vegetables). Who chooses this food? It’s terrible. It’s a torture. Compared to this, the food is got at the hospital is a 5 star gourmet meal.