I found it particularly interesting that of the “some forty-five thousand items in the average American supermarket”, “more than a quarter of them now contain corn”. That’s ridiculous. I, as a human being, demand to have a more varied diet. After reading that, while making myself a lovely snack of scrambled eggs, I decided to check and see how much of the stuff in my fridge contained corn. Corn syrup is in my blueberry jam. Xanthan gum is in my mustard. Dextrose is in the random bottle of whipped cream. Man, there’s even corn in the corn tortillas!! So yeah, I guess the book is right. There is a lot of corn in the American diet.
Since Danielle already took the corn deal (which surprised/scared me too), I'll say the extent that Pollan believes the media has on affecting Americans' view of food and healthy eating surprised me. I thought the 2002 example was interesting. After the NYT article was published ("What if Fat Doesn't Make You Fat?"), it was amazing to learn that within months the products supermarkets sold drastically changed, and tons of bakeries went out of business because the "moral stain" that instantly tarnished pasta and bread. I was mostly surprised by this because it made me realize that supermarkets, like all businesses, have a goal to make money, and justly so. But, this seems to mean to me that supermarkets will sell products that sell well, no matter their healthiness or their effect on the environment. Certainly there are stores that take the products' voyage to their store into account, but most likely charge a higher price for said products. Anyways, I'm not mad at supermarkets all of a sudden, because businesses must make money, but that example made me think about how strong the media's effect is on the American mind, especially when it comes to food choice.
The most intriguing points for me in the first two sections were the little comments Pollan made that made me think about our society. Firstly, his comment on how much corn we unknowingly eat made me take a step back and contemplate my diet. Also, the fact that Americans don't consider themselves "Corn Eaters" and more of "Wheat" or "Beef Eaters" says a lot about how much thought goes into what we eat. The other thing that really made me think was the description of the supermarket at the beginning of Chapter 1. It was really eye opening to juxtapose how we view supermarkets as cornucopias of food and how sterile and unnatural they appear.
What particularly struck me in the reading was how warped the American diet has become, following the boon of the beef industry. Considering that grains, like rice, wheat, and even corn, have been the staples of civilizations across the globe for thousands of years, this new obsession with fat and protein, generated by American media machine and endorsed by fad diets such as Atkins, is simply disgusting. Having seen every People magazine, every Star or In Touch disparaging the evils of carbohydrates and claiming; "You can stay thin eating red meat and lard!" I find myself laughing at how warped our industrialized food chain has become. No longer about health, or even nourishment for that matter, America's food industry is in need of huge changes.
First off, I was surprised at the magnitude of our use of corn. I knew corn and its products were used in many different places, but did not know that it was used to the extent made clear by Pollan. It’s staggering that one quarter of all things sold in a supermarket have corn, or at least things derived from corn, in them. As with Pollan, I also found the whole “corn sex” chapter to be interesting, as well as the point made that corn needs human activity to live.
The most interesting point in the reading for me was the idea that "humans need corn and corn needs humans." My first thought was something of disbelieve on both ends. As i kept reading i started to understand Americans dependency on corn; as it is involved in one fourth of an average American's diet. What was more surprising though was the corn's dependence on humans. I have always thought of corn, like nearly all other plants, can grow in abundance as long as it is not affected by humans. On the contrary, the reading makes a big point about how corn, because of its breeding system, can barely hold on as a crop if it were not for humans. Corn is also a very damaging crop for the soil and it take a a lot of hard work from an animal with prehensile thumbs to take care of the land and spread the hidden seeds for the next generation of corn to grow. It is crazy how much power we hold over the fate of our own diet.
Of course I was just as astonished as all the previous posters about how 45,000 products in our super markets are made out of corn. It's sad how when we may think we are in control of our diets and think that we have the privilege and freedom to choose from a diverse variety of foods, we aren't/don't. We are essentially more "maize" or "corn walking" than Mexicans, whose diets people know to be composed primarily of unprocessed corn. That's crazy. What really got me was thinking about how dependent our country is on corn and how we have the complete control over keeping corn alive and thriving. What would our country be like without corn? I understand that basing our whole food system on basically one plant is a bad thing to do and perhaps our economy would collapse without corn since it is an ingredient in so many products? Perhaps this will be explained later along with the health problems of eating corn.
I know everyone's been saying it, and I know that it is the title of the chapter, but what really amazed me from the first chapter of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" was how integrated corn was into all aspects of American life. I knew that almost all processed foods contained corn in either oil or sugar form, but I did not realize how corn was in the packaging for those foods. I particularly thought it was repulsive how the farming industry has been genetically modifying animals to eat corn even when that is not their natural food. It is in everything we consume! I also thought it was interesting how corn has a chemical advantage when it comes to surviving due to it being a c-4 plant so that it can survive better in harsher climates, and take in more carbon from the atmosphere than other plants.
The most interesting part of the first chapter was Pollan’s description of the American supermarket and the breakdown of its parts into corn. While I was aware that corn is a major crop in our country and that it’s used for many products other than food, the extent to which we’re dependent on it really hit home when I read this chapter. Not just the processed food and household products in the supermarket, but literally the supermarket itself is made out of corn. Our society is so dependent on supermarkets, especially in urban areas, and without them accessibility to food would be completely different. Realizing how dependent the system of supermarkets is on corn was kind of scary. Pollan also makes the point that corn is very versatile and adapts easily, but this whole thing isn’t healthy or safe for us, on a physical level or well-being and also on a level of general security for our society’s future.
I would agree with most everyone: the prevalence of corn in our diet was pretty shocking to me. I had a moment of panic in which I tried to think of something that I could eat without corn in it, and finally settled on going and getting a glass of water. The description of chicken nuggets as corn covered in more corn and deep fried in corn oil (with some corn-based sauce or corn syrup based sodas on the side) made me feel kind of claustrophobic. A few years ago I made an argument in Student Congress that the option to use corn as our fuel, in the form of ethanol, will further drive down the price of corn if the government subsidizes it, which will make us fatter. Food for thought.
As everyone before me has already said, the thing that struck me the most is the abundance of corn in the American diet. It seriously is in everything. As Sasha so kindly rewrote for us, the image of the chicken nugget is one I don’t think I will ever be able to forget. It is scary to think about how much our society is relying on a single crop, and impossible to imagine what would happen if corn weren’t available to us anymore. It is also sad that we are forcing and genetically modifying animals to change their diet so that they eat corn even when it is not in their natural diet. Corn is something that may be cheap to produce, but it does have an extremely negative impact on the soil. It is one of the most destructive products to the land and it takes years for the soil to fully recover once corn has been grown there. There is also a need for a balance in our diets, and this over-consumption of corn doesn’t seem to be a very good for us health wise either.
I found it interesting to think about how humans have so many options as to what to eat that it is no longer about finding food to eat but rather the choice of what to eat. There are so many options and quite often we have no idea where the food we are eating comes from. It seems like a long time ago it was so much more simple you would get your food from a local farm or your own. Now there are so many food products that you can hardly call food because they involve so many varied ingredients from around the world many items we would never recognize by name. I find the comparison of the united states and France very interesting as well. I agree that its pretty surprising that the united states cares so much about dieting and nutrition and eating right and we are the ones who are unhealthy while they eat rich heavy foods and are overall much healthier than Americans. It is amazing how far we have come from the way humans used to eat, whether for the better or for the worse.
I found it crazy, but absolutely believable, that corn is so prevalent in modern American supermarkets, primarily in hidden forms like corn starch or high fructose corn syrup. Michael Pollan makes it sound like corn is taking over the world, which is funny to think about, but when I start to think about it it becomes pretty obvious that corn makes up almost every processed food. I had never really thought about what xanthan gum or leavenings and lecithin came from because they seemed like such strange and small constituents of the foods I eat, but looking at it from this perspective it is pretty frightening that in this way corn is a hidden part of so many foods that none of us would ever associate with corn.
I have read this book several times, but one thing that struck me the first time I read this was the idea of "the French paradox". Although the French generally do not refer to the idea as such, the concept is that, while French people appear to be unconcerned about the "healthiness" of the food they eat, they are, on average, slimmer and healthier than Americans, even though Americans are constantly barraged by new diet fads and nutritionist advice and are supposedly some of the world's greatest health-nuts. The French are famous for eating rich, high-calorie foods such as pates and heavy cheeses, and yet their culture still heavily emphasizes eating at the table, eating small portions, and eating a diversified diet, which means that the population generally has fewer of the United States' eating problems. According to Pollan, the Americans, in contrast, have been leaning towards a "convenience" lifestyle for the past half-century or so, where the majority of "food" many families consume is not eaten at the table, and, rather than being composed of "whole" foods such as fresh vegetables, is made up of (or at least heavily enhanced by) artificial ingredients, most of which come from corn. Additionally, a large proportion of the American population lacks a strong cultural norm of moderation, and people will eat large amounts of food and then, in surges of guilt, strive to diet and subsist on "health foods" instead, rarely making any progress in losing weight, expanding their life expectancy, or even feeling happier. It is worth noting that this "paradox" is not universally true in France, since the country does have a high population of impoverished people (who often eat much less nutritious food), and globalization has brought a significant amount of convenience food to the country's marketplace. But even taking these facts into account, this "parable" is still compelling.
What struck me the most about the introduction and chapter 1 of Omnivore's Dilemma is simply how much our lives revolve around corn!! Just thinking about how corn is such a secret integral part of so many different foods we don't associate with corn - especially high fructose corn syrup dominating the sweet foods (what ever happened to good ol' sugar?) - it's scary to wonder what would happen if corn crops were devastated by a disease or something of the sort. While of course the growing of corn is not a monoculture of the United States, it would have cascading effects (so to speak) on a scarily large number of other foods were it to be threatened.