I recently picked up this book and was SUPER excited about what it might have in store for me. The opening chapter caught my attention right off the get-go. Chapter one was about the tomato. Not the ones you find yourself smelling at the farmer’s market while dreaming of its endless possibilities; rather, the tomato that you find at the supermarket. You know the tomato I’m talking about… the one that looks like all the other ones in the pile. They’re all roughly the same size. They’re very firm. They have no unsightly marks or bruises. When you cut into them, the walls are so thick that the tomato doesn’t even lose its shape. And, finally, there are no fruit flies hovering over them, even on the warmest of days.
That’s how Thomas F. Pawlick caught my attention. I knew exactly which tomatoes he was talking about and I had wondered the very same thing. The chapter goes on to tell you just how those tomatoes got to be so uniform and what sort of nutritional value they offer the consumer (not much). This is followed by stats on other fruits and vegetables. So far, so good. Nothing too shocking here.
The following chapter, however, starts to dig deeper into our factory-like food system. With sections on antibiotics, acrylamide, arsenic, dioxins, bovine growth hormones, genetically modified food stuffs, Mad Cow, pesticides, E. Coli, and other shocking possible food contaminants, this section proves much harder to swallow, so to speak, than the first section. By the end of this chapter I’m afraid to eat anything, lest it grew in my backyard under conditions I had some control over. I found myself hoping that the author would ease up for a bit and inject some humour into his text. That hope did not help me to prepare for the information contained in the following chapters.
The following chapters focused on the damage done to the environment, the manipulation of consumers and farmers by giant corporations, and the kinds of conditions the animals we eat are forced endure before they land on our plate (a particularly rough section for the weaker stomachs).
As a consumer, there are certain things that you think you know, and some of them you even come to accept (ie. pesticide use), and then there are things that are so horrifyingly wrong, that no one wants you to even know about them. Once you do know, however, they are hard to swallow and even more difficult to ignore. I am telling you about this book because I think it contains information that, while difficult to digest, is important for your health, the health of the planet and the future of mankind.
Thomas Pawlick’s text is well researched and fairly well-written. My only criticism (and it’s a BIG one), is that I think it may have the opposite effect than desired. The reader has to wade through 180 pages of shocking details. There is no break, there’s no humour injected to make it easier to handle, and there is no sense of hope. With the solutions being a mere 40 pages long (and still riddled with more depressing facts), a less dedicated person would have put the book down, guilt-free. I found The End of Food to be so overwhelmingly depressing that it took me 2 weeks to read its 256 pages (keeping in mind that 33 of those pages are notes). Twice, I was disturbed to the point of tears, embarrassingly, while at work. If ever I had the opportunity to meet Thomas Pawlick, I would suggest that he put solutions at the end of each section, lest the less hopeful readers give up on both the book, and humanity. That being said, I did learn some new information from Pawlick's research and he did get me to make one major change; I will no longer be spending my hard-earned money on meat from the grocery store. If there is a local farm that supplies hormone-free and anti-biotic meat, from animals who have been fairly treated, I will be paying them a visit soon.
For those of you who have already read books on the food industry, this text might be a tad redundant. For those of you starting out, this book might be a tad too shocking and hopeless. For those of you, like me, somewhere in the middle, you'll find The End of Food to be somewhere in the middle of redundant and informative. A good read, none-the-less.