Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Botany of Desire

Goodreads Summary: Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers’ genes far and wide. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires—sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control—with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind’s most basic yearnings. And just as we’ve benefited from these plants, we have also done well by them. So who is really domesticating whom?

While the description of the book talks more about evolutionary aspect of these plants, it also focuses on environmental and economic issues.

The past couple years I've really been thinking about the food we eat. Just a few years ago, I would have said, "Organic? Huh? High-fructose corn syrup? What?" After reading Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and The Botany of Desire, and other books taking about food and the food business (Can You Trust a Tomato in January? by Vince Staten and Bananas by Peter Chapman), I'm thinking about the quality of our food as well as the cost of it (environmental, health, etc.) much more than I ever have.

We only buy organic milk. My husband could drink four gallons in a week. (This is an exaggeration, but only slight.) This summer, for the first time, we're getting a CSA share. I'd love to grow some of our food, but we have a tiny yard that the dogs take over and Wyoming has a growing season about two weeks long. (Again, an exaggeration, but it's nothing like what I grew up with in Georgia. My daffodils didn't bloom til mid-May and it's not unheard of to have snow in June.)

I understand why agriculture has grown into big business, but it doesn't make me feel good about what I am eating. If you are all interested in these food issues, check out any of the books I mentioned above. I especially enjoyed The Botany of Desire and In Defense of Food.

1 comment:

  1. I've read In Defense of Food and Food Rules by Michael Pollan, but I haven't read this one yet. Sounds interesting! Thanks for the review.