Minutiae, pages 320-411

I’ve now completed my reading of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In the next few days, I’ll be concluding my series of posts on the book. Meanwhile, here’s a list of the little things from the last two weeks:

  • Pollan writes, “On their appointed rounds the pigs can cover forty square miles in a day” (336). I think he means to specify a unit of distance, rather than area.
  • Pollan says of mushrooms, “It’s difficult to reconcile the extraordinary energies of these organisms with the fact that they contain relatively little of the kind of energy that scientists usually measure: calories” (377). Calories aren’t a “kind of energy.” They are a unit in which energy is measured. Calling calories a kind of energy is like saying that miles are a kind of distance. There is something of a subtlety here, though. It’s a bit misleading to say that foods “contain” energy. When we talk about foods having a certain number of calories, we’re referring to the amount of energy that becomes available to us when we eat them. If the foods were to undergo a different sequence of reactions than the ones that take place in our bodies, different amounts of energy would be released. Accordingly, Pollan’s remarks might begin to make sense if we replace “calories” by “physiologically available energy,” as the USDA calls it.
  • Pollan writes, “The fava, which is the only bean native to the Old World, is a broad, flat, bright green shelling bean that if picked young and quickly blanched has a starchy sweet taste that to me is as evocative of springtime as fresh peas or asparagus” (396). I don’t think the fava is the only bean native to the Old World. The adzuki bean seems to also have its origins in the Old World.
  • Pollan explains, “The reason I didn’t open a can of stock was because stock doesn’t come from a can; it comes from the bones of animals” (410). Of course, stock could also be made from vegetables.
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1 Comment »

  1. Delianth said

    The fava bean is native to the mediterranean, so I’m going to count that as the Old World, too. So, in which case, Pollan is fucking lying.

    The adzuki is native to Japan, yes. We have chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in the Middle East, cannelloni beans in Italy, black beans in China (there are six different species of black beans, one of which is native to China), not to mention soybeans

    And that’s not even counting non-bean legumes, like the forty thousand different kinds of lentils in the world. We’ve made more than half of all legume species extinct, though… mostly through animal agriculture and other silly capitalist moves.

    If I didn’t know plenty about carnists, I’d be wondering why Pollan was so ignorant of beans. But the answer is always: he’s too focused on animal products to care about plants. Ever.

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