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Michael Pollan

The Omnivore's Dilemma

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    In The Hungry SoulLeon Kass calls this the great paradox of eating: “that to preserve their life and form living things necessarily destroy life and form
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    We butcher, grind, chop, grate, mince, and liquefy raw ingredients, breaking down formerly living things so that we might recombine them in new, more cultivated forms
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    The Romans called it “usufruct,” which the dictionary defines as “the right to enjoy the use and advantages of another’s property short of the destruction or waste of its substance
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    The menu should feature at least one representative of each edible kingdom: animal, vegetable, and fungus, as well as an edible mineral (the salt).
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    Since the evolutionary strategy of fruiting plants is to recruit animals to transport their seeds, they’ve evolved to get themselves noticed, attracting us with their bright colors
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    yster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)can digest a pile of petrochemical sludge in a fortnight, transforming the toxic waste into edible protein. (This alchemy makes more sense when you recall that what saprophytic mushrooms have evolved to do is break down complex organic molecules, which is precisely what petrochemicals are.)
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    Mexicans call mushrooms carne de los muertos—“flesh of the dead.”)
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    Most of the fungi we eat obtain their energy by one of two means: saprophytically, by decomposing dead vegetable matter, and mycorrhizally, by associating with the roots of living plants.
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    white button mushrooms, shiitakes, cremini, Portobellos, and oyster mushrooms
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    Fungi, lacking chlorophyll, differ from plants in that they can’t manufacture food energy from the sun. Like animals, they feed on organic matter made by plants, or by plant eaters. Most of the fungi we eat obtain their energy by one of two means: saprophytically, by decomposing dead vegetable matter, and mycorrhizally, by associating with the roots of living plants
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    Fungi also lack the comprehensible syntax of plants, the orderly and visible chronology of seed and vegetative growth, flower, fruit, and seed again
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    The mushroom is the “fruiting body” of a subterranean network of microscopic hyphae, improbably long rootlike cells that thread themselves through the soil like neurons. Bunched like cables, the hyphae form webs of (still microscopic) mycelium.
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    What we call a mushroom is only the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger and essentially invisible organism that lives most of its life underground
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    For there was the oak tree standing in the sun, light which it had transformed into the acorns that littered the ground and fed the pig that the man in the picture was turning into food. The man had done nothing to create this food chain, only stepped into a role prepared long ago for the Predator.
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    Sun-soil-oak-pig-human
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    which might explain why cultures have more rules and taboos governing the eating of meat than of any other food, rules that specify not only which animals are okay to eat and not, but which parts of those animals and how they must be killed.
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    Every good hunter is uneasy in the depths of his conscience when faced with the death he is about to inflict on the enchanting animal,”
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    Having introduced a loaded gun in Act One, the curtain can’t come down until it is fired. I might miss, but the gun had to be fired.
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    It is the custom when hunting with companions that the first shot belongs to the person who spotted the animal, perhaps in recognition of the fact that skill in hunting is as much about finding the game as killing it. In fact, in many hunter-gatherer societies, the first portion of meat belongs not to the hunter who kills the animal but to the one to whom it first appeared.
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    One of these compounds is THC, the active ingredient in marijuana; another is anandamide, a recently discovered neurotransmitter manufactured in the brain (and named by its discoverer for the Sanskrit word for inner bliss).
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