Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal

Mark Bittman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-1-328-97462-4
Bittman (VB6) eviscerates agribusiness in this cultural and economic history of the ways humanity feeds itself. Bittman begins with the invention of agriculture, when the shift to cultivating crops meant that people began to protect their land interests. Population increased, diets became more monotonous, and greater demands on the soil meant conquering more land. But Bittman’s main focus is on the past two centuries of American agriculture. Westward expansion and the desire to increase land yields led to technical innovations including chemical fertilizers, the tractor and the factory farm, and the rise of a “food industry” that prioritized business needs over human ones. Bittman also calls out the racist history of American food practices, from the exclusion of Blacks from the Homestead Act to contemporary supply chains that create “food deserts” that disproportionately impact Black Americans’ health. The final segment leans into an “agroecological” perspective and a return to centering the health of the earth via legislation that stewards the land and positions food as nourishment rather than product. Bittman covers a huge swath of human history, and examines his fraught topics with just enough optimism to leave readers more motivated than reeling. Anyone concerned about the injustices cooked into the food system owes it to themselves to pick this up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 03/01/2021
Release date: 02/02/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-1-328-97162-3
MP3 CD - 978-1-6647-8362-1
Compact Disc - 978-0-358-39483-9
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