I’ve eaten in a number of fine restaurants and some good hotels this summer, but the best meals I had came from elsewhere. While reporting on Wal-Mart and sustainable fishing in Alaska, I enjoyed a sockeye salmon that had been caught a few hours earlier and grilled by the crew of a fishing boat in Kodiak Bay. During a weekend of hiking in Vermont, my daughter, Sarah, and I stopped at a farmer’s market and bought some freshly-made goat cheese, fresh-baked bread and a just picked local tomato that made up a fabulous lunch, eaten atop Bromley Mountain. And last week, a friend gave me his weekly share of the produce of a local farmer–tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, basil, yellow squash and some other vegetables–that became a pasta and vegetable dinner. What all these meals had in common, besides the fact that they were fresh and delicious, was their transparency–it was easy to connect dinner to the farm, or the fishing boat.
These meals came to mind because I’ve just finished The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. It’s one of the most eye-opening, thought-provoking books that I’ve read in years. Pollan begins with a simple question: What should we have for dinner? He explores the possibilities in more than 400 immensely satisfying pages. One of the many keen observations in the book is this–mass industrial agriculture, among its other problems, leaves us profoundly disconnected from the people and places that produce our food. (Often for good reason, as Pollan’s visits to a corn farm and cattle ranch reveal.) "In the industrial food economy," he writes, "virtually the only information that travels along the food chain linking producer and consumer is price." Read this book–you won’t regret it. I hope to return to the topic of good food in this blog, and in my writing at CNNMoney.