I’ve been carrying a Pandora’s box of worries throughout the day;
I’m drowning even as I’m running to the car rushing off to the next obligation on my list of things to do.
It’s just a faint whisper of a voice that commands me,
but I allow myself to pause and abide at this moment.
I hear the wind brushing the cascade of leaves above,
I hear the fluttering flags, pulsating in the throb of each gust.
The texture of fibers, the crinkle, and crackle of the papers I am grasping.
It smells like April,
a sky pregnant with rain,
weekends reserved for musty bookshelves and warm snuggles.
I let myself cease at this moment that seems as if it could stretch into infinity.
But despite my best efforts, time trickles on,
The present will soon become the past,
the future holds out its hand expectantly.
So I sigh, expelling the foggy tension that had been stifling,
feel the steam levitating from my lungs, and track on.
Title: The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Author: Michael Pollan
Genre: Non-Fiction, Cookbooks, Education
Publisher: Penguin (August 28, 2007)
Age Range: Appropriate for all ages. (There is a shorter version for 10+ year-olds.)
Pages: 450 pages (paperback)
Buy at: Amazon | Audible| Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Google Play | iBooks
One of the New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of the Year
Winner of the James Beard Award
Wow, it has definitely been a while since I have posted a book review on my blog and this book has been on my mind for a while. (I received this book as a Secret Santa gift.) Though this book was written over a decade ago, the ideas are still as applicable as ever and they explain the discussion around going vegan or vegetarian. The premise of this book is that what we choose to eat has a larger impact socially, environmentally, and of course on our health.
DISCLAIMER: The following is a brief summary and then a review. Skip to the review if you want to avoid the didactics.
This is the first topic that Pollan covers in his novel and it is frightening to see how much one produce pervades our society. America has a surplus of corn which is only growing because of faulty governmental regulations. To use up our bountiful corn, scientists have found ways to split corn into parts that can be used in our food. A prime example is high fructose corn syrup which is used as a cheaper substitute for sugar. Ranchers have also found ways to implement corn into livestock feed, specifically cows, which has led to a cascade of issues. Cows are natural ruminants with one of the most advanced stomach systems to digest the cellulose in grass. When fed corn, the pH of a cow’s stomach becomes acidic, eating away at their stomach walls which leads to bacteria in a cow’s bloodstream. As a result, cows fed with corn also need to be pumped with antibiotics otherwise they may be infected with a load of nasty stuff including E-coli. Pollan goes on to say that many of the current health issues connecting heart disease to meat, is really a connection between health issues and corn-fed beef. YAY! If that isn’t bad enough, Pollan tells us that the fast-food chain is one of the biggest purchasers of corn-fed beef and they work to obscure the origins of the ingredients in their food. Realistically, if every consumer saw the living conditions of animals in Concentrated Feed Lot Operations (CAFO’s) nobody would want to eat McDonald’s anymore.
This book took a surprising turn in examining the organic industry. Organic has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the food industry in response to public concerns over pesticides and GMO’s. However, Pollan notes how organic is becoming industrialized just like non-organic produce and when considering the negative externalities, it doesn’t look too much better. Organic is being bought up quickly by the larger food companies like General Mills because they sense profit in the public’s hunger for more sustainable food. As a result, labels such as “free-range” and “organic” become murky in the market as the FDA attempts to establish proper definitions. A chicken operation with a tiny square available for them to wander around could be defined as “free range” while the public may believe that “free-range” chickens careen freely on green pastures. And while machines may not be squirting pesticides all over crops, migrant workers, whose rights are often abused, toil all day to nurture organic produce. Depressing right? So what exactly are we supposed to do?
Pollan believes buying locally will save the food industry. He follows Joel Salatin who runs Polyface Farms, a unique operation that depends upon the ecological niches of their animals. A summary of how their farm functions would not do it proper justice, but in short, Joel’s farm has a revolutionary way of directing animals to ecologically restore the land and preserve the integrity of their livestock. Interestingly, Joel only sells produce locally and refuses to partner with larger food corporations, he says doing so would go against the balance preserved at Polyface Farms. Buying locally preserves the transparency between the consumer and the source of their food. Meeting with your local farmer holds them accountable for their ethical practices in raising their livestock and preserving the environment. Buying locally also reduces your carbon footprint because you know your oranges came locally and not 2,000 miles away. Hurray! So go hit up those Farmer’s Markets on Sundays!
Crazy Hunter Gatherer
Pollan ends his novel with a personal narrative where he makes a meal almost entirely sourced from his own hunting and gathering expeditions. It’s a fun portion of the book that is more experimental than educational and Pollan concludes that this type of prehistoric food sourcing is enjoyable, but not sustainable in modern times.
After reading this book, I have decided to reduce my beef and pork consumption. This is extremely difficult because Asian cuisine is primarily centered around meat. (Think dumplings and meat pastries.) I allow myself to eat beef when my mom explicitly tells me the cow was grass fed. When I go out to eat I try to stay conscious of where my food is coming from. I believe my decision to make changes in my diet is what Pollan hoped for. He isn’t asking for a radical change, but he wants us to strongly consider ways we can make changes in our lifestyles for our health and the health of the planet.
This book isn’t just for vegans or vegetarians, I recommend this book for ANYONE who is looking to examine the ethics, origins, and effects of their diet. This book is definitely a thought provoker and sheds a shining light on the darkest corners of our food industry.
Though at times I felt bogged down by Pollan’s long descriptions, he kept my interest by using a tone of excitement and horror in detailing his personal investigations. Pollan went great lengths to examine the full spectrum of how food reaches our tables and you finish the book feeling satisfied he left no stone unturned. In my record, this book is a 9.5/10 and a lasting favorite read.
Today, when you sat next to me,
I noticed you had tiny hairs on your chin and it made me smile.
You are a girl who isn’t looking for attention to be this close to her;
I imagine that you look into the mirror every morning with blessings on your mind and none of the complaints.
That night, I stared at myself in the mirror,
in my jean jacket and dress,
with my hair brushed back;
I almost looked like the kind of girl who would be brave enough to kiss you,
and you would kiss me back.
It is hardest to admit to ourselves,
That we are not always looking for love,
More than someone to fill up empty shelves,
An angel to rescue you from above,
You want someone who can say the right words.
But happiness should not be a person.
People may stay for awhile but like birds
Leave with seasons, your pain only worsens.
But who can blame you for loving wrongly,
When they make the sun rise and fall for you.
Hide your affections in secret calmly.
When the storm passes, the wind never blew.
You could stand there and nobody would know,
All the passions held in your heart that flow.
Think about this. Our thoughts are a commodity. Commercials flood our televisions and phone screens, companies vying for our attention. Advertisers have even found ways to shorten their commercials to 3 seconds before a youtube video! Then you have popular media culture, where social media apps like Facebook and Instagram have infinitive scrolling where you can drown yourself in other people’s lives. What we have in my generation is a group of young people segregated from time and space while they are locked into their phones and obsessed with materialism.
So what do we do?
When I realized I was spending more time in the virtual world than the actual, I made a series of steps.
- Turning off unnecessary notifications.
Turn off your Facebook and Instagram notifications. Those applications are tailor designed to draw you in by alerting you every time someone likes your picture. When this happens, you are flushed with a hit of dopamine and it gives you the urge to constantly interact more with the app. In reality, you only need to check the app a few times a day for important updates, and turning off notifications can help your self-control.
- Change your phone to grayscale.
I only did this just last night after watching a Facebook video by Vox. Ok, yes I realize the irony… but I swear I got off my phone after this video. Anyways, Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist says a simple cure for phone addiction is to turn your phone to grayscale. The idea is to get rid of the flashing colors that attract your eyes to certain applications. Red is used to stimulate hunger and desire, which is why fast food chains and your notification bubbles are all red! Without the color, your mind is not so easily ensnared by your phone content. The truth is, everything in grayscale looks awful, which of course is wonderful!
- Organizing your phone.
Okay, the second idea that Tristan Harris suggests which is organizing your apps so you only see the necessary ones first. What I have done is taken my social media apps, my games, and put them on the second page of my phone. When you do this, it makes it a teensy bit harder for you to decide to click on those addicting apps. The time it takes for you to swipe over to those apps gives your mind time to remind yourself to focus.
- Deleting distracting apps.
This is the last resort choice for those like me who don’t have self-control. Eventually, I found myself still unable to resist using Instagram for unhealthy amounts of time despite turning off notifications. I despised how much time I was wasting on the app so I made the final choice to delete the app. Eventually, it comes down to what you are willing to do to change your habits.
Why is this so important?
I’ve personally noticed that social media has made me careless with the physical time I spend with my friends and family. Social media creates a false sense of social participation when you like someone’s photo or status update, and it can make you feel closer to someone than you actually are. And social media ruins quality time with your friends, who can’t admit to checking social media while hanging out?
I can personally testify that making these changes to my phone have reaped dramatic benefits over the past few days. Without the distractions on my phone, I’m getting to sleep on time and then finding more creative power in myself. Proper sleep has also helped me make better conscious decisions and stay emotionally stable.
So what are you waiting for? Take back control of your life by stopping your screen addiction. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this and are encouraged to make changes on your phone!
You didn’t notice it before, but the tides flow so swiftly.
Almost 18 years have gone by without fanfare,
So take the time to be grateful for the small things.
Take out your headphones, put away all the distractions.
Just be. Look at the tide swirling around you
And as you stand there thinking about then, this, and there,
You can hear it moving ever so faintly.
The raindrops pattering the sidewalk,
A gasp of surprise when the Sunday school kids have grown,
The cars whooshing by, carrying people and their worries away.
They say we are fish out of water but look at you.
Swimming with fins, scales, gills, and all,
Even if it was only for a moment.
I keep my love for you in my backseat jean pockets,
A good luck charm for those rainy days that have no golden lining.
On the nights I can’t sleep,
Thinking of you puts my mind at ease knowing tomorrow is another day where you will be.
It is good the sun rises and falls, it means I am still alive to be with you.
Loving you is seeing the good in everything and nothing all at once,
Feeling the world through your hands, seeing with your eyes,
And realizing with the bitter crush of disappointment that you are not here.
Love like this should be kept secret,
Because once the cat’s out of the closet there’s no going back.
I’m a tender gardener whose large loving hands can’t seem to fit her gloves,
So I’m learning to plant the seeds wisely one by one.
Otherwise, I find myself in a garden full of thorns.
Hi! I had an epiphany before bed that I could provide some insight on my experiences as a reader. I hope these tips can help all you busy readers struggling to fit in a good book with your busy schedule. And I hope this can equally apply to nonreaders attempting to find their inner bookworm.
- Don’t stress out about it!
Reading is first and foremost meant to be enjoyable. Don’t read books you don’t like, that will make you hate reading. This is why I have so much beef with the Accelerated Reader system employed in the elementary school. They test your reading level and expect you to adhere to those boundaries. In short, everybody resented this system and I think it explains why many of my peers find reading tiresome. I DIGRESS. But seriously! Find a book that you enjoy and a niche within a genre you love. Snacking on thrillers and comics is nothing to be ashamed of! Any type of reading is good for you and your brain. Reading is proven to improve short-term memory skills and concentration. 😀
2. Bring a book with you EVERYWHERE!!
If you are crazy busy like me trying to juggle a myriad of extracurriculars with school, then you need to manage your reading time efficiently. So bring a book or two with you everywhere! You might find yourself waiting in line for lunch where you can squeeze in a few pages or in class going over homework questions you answered correctly where you can read in class. In short, READ EVERYWHERE
3. Switch between genres
When I finish a book like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (fantastic book by the way) I find myself mentally exhausted and craving for a more light-hearted read. So I periodically shift between serious literature and genres that involve more mystery and adventure. I have found this works best for me because I eventually tire out just reading one type of literature.
I personally prefer reading over listening, but this is a great option if you are looking for a way to hear a story while you are doing other chores around the house.
I own my own kindle and I love how I can carry over a dozen book in a small tablet. It makes it easier for readers like me who sometimes like to switch between books when one gets boring. Another great thing is that Amazon has made all the classics free on Kindle so I read all the original Sherlock Holmes. 🙂
6. Reading before bed!
This is great because it helps you take your mind off your busy day and relax to fall asleep. It also pushes away the temptation to reach for my phone and look at social media. Screen time before bed can mess up your circadian rhythms! A funny thing is that reading in bed used to be scandalous when books could fall on candles and cause a fire. HEHE.
7. Binge reading
Find a Saturday you are free and binge read a book you have been dying to get into. Sometimes this is best at a Starbucks coffee store where they have nice ambient noises and peaceful jazz music which can help you immerse into the narrative. Even better is if you have a gold card and you can keep refilling your tea while you stay there and read. Just thinking about this makes me happy sigh. ❤
On Sundays, people kneel in pews hollow.
Each prays silently carrying the weight
of their sins, hoping to be made hallow.
I left the tracks I was meant to follow.
If anyone asks, it was all their hate,
all their words that made religion hollow.
Nobody knows for certain; I wallow
That grey space twixt hell and heaven- my fate.
I face the choice to be damned or hallow.
Dangerous desire is a shadow
that will taunt a father’s righteous irate.
This fear has made a daughter’s love hollow
I find myself drowning in the shallow
of my thoughts; I usurped the Godly fate
Of a future marriage to be hallow.
There is no hope to escape the gallow;
I know the judgment of God and men wait
for me. Seeking love in law is hollow.
Denying the truth brings only sorrow,
Yet I can’t stop the tantalizing bait
of safety in the intimate hollow.
My selfish desire makes all hallow.
Oh gosh this villanelle took two days to write in 4-6 hrs. I finished the rhyme scheme when I discovered that the rhythm was wayyy off. So I rewrote each line with 10 syllables. WHAT A CHORE. But it was worth it. I’m practicing my structured poems to become a better creative writer. I took inspiration from the disjointed lines of Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art. It’s also a villanelle, but it doesn’t strictly follow 10 syllables, she sometimes has 11. #rebel🤯 I love her poem because the subject fits the style of the poem which is the goal of structured poetry. Unfortunately, I’m not at Bishop level 2000, and I’m stuck at level 1 where my structure is forced. My goal is to get better. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this poem and please do comment what you think I am alluding to.