Omnivore’s Dilemma-A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

I love this book.

And you really need to watch this movie to really get the first chapter, which is just delicious. It is all about corn (which is so not maize), and how it works with the air and the dirt and how it pollinates itself (you know those eensy little teeny wierd kernals on the very end?  Page 29.

Modern corn is pretty much a man-made thing. You won’t be finding stands of wild corn, since the idea of a corncob dropping on the ground and the kernals sprouting….well, that wouldn;t happen. More likely one of the red-winged blackbirds would snatch a kernel, stash it somewhere, where it would dry up to proper seed stature and then somehow, it would just fall onto fertile and welcoming ground.

Like I said. Wouldn’t happen.

This corn that we eat has been whack hybrid bred so that you can’t save the seeds to plant next year (pretty smart of the seed selling guys, doncha think?) It’s not really the kind of corn you even eat…at least it’s not the kind of corn I plant in my garden, which by the by, isn’t getting me any 56- pounds- to -the -bushel-200- bushels-to- the- acre.

So anyway, the idea that modern corn is smart enough to figure out that it needs humans to survive isn’t a valid one. It would figure out how to survive; it just wouldn’t look like what we think of as corn. I have two dogs. Rocket weighs 3 pounds and Tank weighs 180. Luckily, they aren’t the only two dogs on Earth. Same with corn. It would figure out something or evolve into something.

However, and this is something I so know a lot about is farming and big farming and diversifying and rotating crops and paying $25 more for a bag of seed that will only make the seed salesmen $25 more dollars. There is such a thing as being a tool of your tools. Our land is here to tend to. The crops? To feed us. Our animals? They work our fields and keep the weeds down and enrich our compost heaps. Farming isn’t pretty but it is a wonderful life…unless you have to plant every square inch of your land up to your back steps and take on a side job to support it. Then it is just crazy….but since you already have the dirt, what the heck else are you supposed to do?

Beats me.

I grew up on a farm right before this all went crazy. We stopped pasture feeding our cows when it became clear that the only way we could make money was to feedlot them. Lucky for me that my parents were old enough to retire, so my memories of growing up on a farm are pretty vivid. We had hired men until I was eight. After that, it was my Mom and Dad (in their late 40’s), eight year old me and six year old Judy. We did it all.  But it was real farming, not King Corn farming.

Still sort of the way I “farm” now. But believe me, reading about it is nothing like getting out and grubbing in the dirt when it is 120 hot dry degrees for days on end. The crops won’t wait until I feel like going out.  I don’t like it but I need it. I need to see my stuff growing. I need to check on my worms (red wigglers, the caddilac of worms) and my compost and gravity drain the koi pond so I don’t BUY fertilizer. And I like to pretend it tastes better and is better for us. But it is a lot of hot dirty muddy grubby work. But at least I know what a real carrot looks like.carrot_half_long_21oct_line

TMI if you aren’t interested:

I think maybe I will be planting this weekend. I have to go sit outside on the ground and see if it warm enough to read an entire chapter of a book without sending me into the house. If it is, I can safely start  my seeds. Tomatoes come later; it still might freeze, although I doubt it.

When planting sweet corn (which is the only kind I plant. You can’t grow flour corn and sweet corn together. They cross pollinate and you get a big hot mess.) You want 2 – 3 per foot, with about a foot between rows. You also want to plant the northernmost row first (so it won’t shade the rest), and then when those plants have a good start, say a handspan above the ground, put in the next row, and so on. That way you’ll have sweet corn in small batches. This way, you will actually have corn all summer long, just not lots of it at any one time because it doesn’t keep well.
I have great luck starting carrots, notoriously sensitive to drying out during germination, in my corn patch. The shade from the corn keeps the soil from drying out, and carrots merrily sprout and grow carrots merrily sprout and grow hither and yon. I like planting little bunches of Danvers, the skinny French ones and the sweet fat, round ones. In fact, I plant carrots all over the place; their feathery little tops make good filler.


One thought on “Omnivore’s Dilemma-A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

  1. I like zucchini best. BUT only fried. . . Then sweet peas because you can jsut eat them out of the garden without cooking and messing them up. I also like Kohlrabi that you can peel and eat raw. Hot buttered beets is another yummy memory. My Mom even made beet jelly which tasted fine mixed with peanut butter. Ahhhhh Swiss chard! We also had gooseberries and raspberries and strawberries which I loved pickin’ and eating. Many other things too but not as memorable.

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