Earth Hour

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Animal, Vegetable, Junk: An Account of Man's Relationship with Food

This book takes a long look at how we have transformed the way we get and consume our food.  Bittman -- a bestselling cookbook author, journalist, and food writer--  gives a comprehensive account of how man obtains his food, from hunter-gatherers to early agriculture and industrial farming.  He argues that the food we eat now is not the same as what our early ancestors ate.  He noted that deceptive marketing techniques made us unhealthy through the years.  How we presently produce our food is also not sustainable and harms us and the environment than good.

Bittman also touched on the politics of American agriculture.  He cited how its expansion excluded black Americans from some government programs and how current practices continue to disadvantage certain groups.  His most damning arguments include how the US Department of Agriculture continues to favor big companies and disregard the people’s and the environment’s welfare.  

Despite painting a bleak scenario for the agriculture industry, Bittman says that a systemic overhaul of the sector could still save it.  He offers an ecological solution he calls "agroecology.” However, he admits that there would be resistance, especially from those in power.  

Most parts of this book sound like a scathing criticism of modern agriculture and American politics by an outraged man. To be fair, Bittman did a lot of work and research to cover not only agriculture and food production but also the underlying socio-political issues. The effort shows in the number of references he cited and the pages dedicated to his endnotes. However, he started proselytizing his ideas in the final chapters and sounded like a propagandist for veganism and social organizations. 

A History of Food, From Sustainable to Suicidal
By Mark Bittman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Kindle Edition (4087 KB)
Published on February 2, 2021