In his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan (as his subtitle suggests) traces the background of four different meals: one he ate at McDonald’s; one he prepared using ingredients from Whole Foods; one he prepared using ingredients from a small farm in Virginia; and (most intriguingly) one he prepared using the methods similar to those used by early human hunter/gatherers.
On page 392 of the original hardcover edition of his book, Pollan describes the ideals and objectives that guided his preparation of this fourth meal. They included the following:
- Pollan himself would provide all the ingredients of the meal by hunting, gathering, or growing them.
- The meal’s ingredients should consist of at least one animal, one vegetable (or fruit), one fungus, and one mineral.
- All the ingredients should be unpreserved.
- No new funds should be spent on ingredients, although ingredients already purchased and on hand might be used.
- The only guests at the meal should include the persons who had helped Pollan gather the ingredients (plus their closest relatives).
- Pollan himself would prepare the meal.
Pollan approached this meal as an experiment, partly to see what trying to prepare it could teach him. He does not propose this kind of meal as a solution to any practical, real-world problems. He then details the various problems and stories that arose from trying to prepare such a meal. He also reports the various compromises he had to make to the guidelines listed above.
Ultimately, much of the food for the meal came from the forest. Preparing the meal took a great deal of time. In his closing comments on this meal, Pollan writes that the meal reminds
us how very much nature offers to the omnivore, the forests as much as the fields, the oceans as much as the meadows. (p. 410)