Judging by the comments from our first book club meeting, it seems that a lot of people are having trouble getting through The Omnivore’s Dilemma because we’ve already been spoon-fed the basic premise, perhaps to an annoying degree. But that’s not Michael Pollan’s fault. It’s our damned liberal media.
So, why don’t we do this? Let’s just zoom right in on the sexy parts, much like a frustrated adolescent might flip through her grandmother’s trashy novels until a word like “manhood” catches her eye. Luckily, one of the sections in the first chapter is entitled Corn Sex, so I didn’t have to look far. Here’s an excerpt:
“The tassel at the top of the plant houses the male organs…. A meter or so below await the female organs, hundreds of minuscule flowers arranged in tidy rows along a tiny, sheathed cob that juts upward from the stalk at the crotch of a leaf midway between tassel and earth.”
That was pretty hot. Though maybe not quite as hot as the turkey sex scenes in Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:
“Inch by inch he walked up onto her back. Then he turned around in circles several times, s-l-o-w-l-y, like the minute hand of a clock, before appearing to decide on the correct orientation.... Paradise arrives when a fellow has kneaded his lady’s erogenous wing zones for a long, long time with his feet….”
Not that hot. But still, somewhat hot for vegetables.
Not to spoil the exciting climax, but I learned two important things from this subchapter on corn copulation. One, that those silky threads that poke out of the top of a cornhusk are there to catch pollen blown by the wind, which then tunnels down through the middle of one of those threads to a hidden, cloistered flower within the husk to form a single kernel of corn. I didn’t know that. I thought those silks were there to hide fat, juicy corn worms waiting to drop onto my bare feet as I shuck, causing me to shriek like a girl every time.
The other crucial bit of information is how easily man can insert himself into corn’s sex life, because even Internet porn gets boring after a while. The ease with which breeders can select for traits that would enable hybrid varieties to withstand, even flourish under, mechanization and other modern farming techniques have made corn an industrial food system’s darling. More than a darling, actually. Reading between the lines, I think Pollan is calling corn a two-bit ho, ready to gratify man’s every wanton desire on a moment’s notice.
Ah, but self-respect is a small price to pay for world domination, is it not? I know this particular ho will be anxiously awaiting the answer in the next chapter, Michael Pollan.