"Mark Bittman is most famous for the 30,000 recipes he’s developed in decades of being a food journalist and authoring 30 books focused on cooking and eating. But this month’s Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food from Sustainable to Suicidal is not another recipe book, it’s a deeply researched call to arms to reshape our food system to center people and planet rather than profit.
Bittman opens this food history by quoting four figures: Naomi Klein, John Muir, Rachel Carson, and Malcolm X—four people from different eras but bound by their understanding of the interconnectedness of the world—before walking readers through hundreds of food mistakes throughout human history, from the salinization of Sumerian wheat fields to the sugary backstabbing origin of Heinz ketchup.
He does not mince words: “Agriculture has, over the course of human history, gotten away with murder. With each passing century, it’s gotten better at it, until it became a justification for imperialism and genocide.” Today’s deeply inefficient and fossil-fuel-powered food system is only this century’s attempt to exploit labor and resources. Along with the structural pressures on farmers, the climate crisis is a long-term form of violence on agriculturists, perpetrated by rich countries, that affects the livelihood of the poorest farmers on Earth—and its legacy is set to stretch for decades to come."