Three weeks ago in this space, I vowed to purchase a book: The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World, by British food journalist and historian Bee Wilson.
Mission accomplished, and I began reading it yesterday.
Living and reading the old-school way means queueing a “coming soon” stack of genuine, tactile books on the nightstand, and tackling them one by one. Another work pertaining to food is about to join the weighty mass: Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal, by Mark Bittman.
The Nation offers a preview.
Junk: Mark Bittman’s history of why we eat bad food, by Bill McKibben
In Animal, Vegetable, Junk, his latest book, (Bittman) offers us his most thoroughgoing attack on the corporate forces that govern our food, tracking the evolution of cultivation and consumption from primordial to modern times and developing what is arguably his most radical and forthright argument yet about how to address our contemporary food cultures’ many ills.
Here is the crux of the argument.
For Bittman, the central drama of this story begins in the course of the last century, as agriculture and food processing became mass industries, and as we moved from having two types of food (plants and animals) to being overwhelmed by a new third type—one that was “more akin to poison.” These “engineered edible substances, barely recognizable as products of the earth, are commonly called ‘junk.’ ”
The difference between these two books, each ostensibly devoted to the same broad topic, is Bittman’s willingness to indulge the polemic against monopolistic corporate forces, while Wilson embraces a more personalized perspective.
Wilson does a creditable job summarizing the economics and nutritional effects of these transitions, but she’s a food writer, not an agronomist or policy-maker. She’s more interested in eaters and consumers than in growers and producers. She says relatively little about the factories and methods that produce so much of our food (including our meat) and still less about the sustainable and ethical farmers challenging those conglomerates.
I plan on purchasing Bittman’s book and reading it later this summer. In the interim, the reviews in The Nation cited herein provide an ample overview of the subject matter.
(Today’s cover photo credit is from New Hope Network, and it’s also an article about Bittman’s book that is worth reading)