Contributing Author: Jared Kaufman
This fall, Food Tank is inviting you to take time to devote to a good book. We’ve gathered 19 reads that inspire us and challenge us to be better activists, environmentalists, cooks, policymakers, protectors of the planet, farmers, supporters of pollinators, and advocates for a better food system.
In these books, farmers and researchers talk about what it takes to practice sustainable agriculture; activists detail the process of reconnecting to their homes and lands, and scholars chart the paths of food through history, war, and school lunches. Here are the 19 books anyone concerned about the food system should add to their reading list this fall:
1. American Cuisine: And How It Got This Way by Paul Freedman (forthcoming Oct. 15, 2019)
Historian Paul Freedman argues in American Cuisine that, although some may say otherwise, there is indeed an American cuisine, even if it is diverse, ever-changing, and not always coherent. Freedman uses food and the development of regional cuisines to write a new history of the U.S., showing the ways that local foodways have been exploited, mythologized, and at times overtaken by the demand for industrial, homogeneous, and nutritious foods.
2. Dancing with Bees: A Journey Back to Nature by Brigit Strawbridge Howard
In Dancing with Bees, Strawbridge Howard reflects on how little she used to know about her native trees and birds and bees, and how she worked to rediscover the natural world around her. Throughout the book, Strawbridge Howard shares stories of the threats facing pollinators and how we can take action to support them and reflects on the joys and wonders of taking time to notice the world around us—and encourages us to take a moment and do the same.
3. Farming on the Wild Side by Nancy J. Hayden and John P. Hayden
Farming on the Wild Side is the tale of two farmers, Nancy and John Hayden, who have completely overhauled their vegetable and livestock farm over the past 25 years. Today, their property in northern Vermont is an organic, biodiverse, regenerative haven for pollinators and wildlife, thanks to the Haydens’ emphasis on agroforestry and ecological respect. The Haydens write about acting on their environmental and philosophical principles and offer advice for other small farmers to take care of their land while bringing their sales strategies into the 21st century.
4. Food and Sustainability in the Twenty-First Century: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives edited by Paul Collinson, Iain Young, Lucy Antal, and Helen Macbeth
Creating a more sustainable food system will require researchers to work across disciplines, and Food and Sustainability in the Twenty-First Century brings together a range of perspectives from anthropologists, biologists, and ecologists on sustainable growth around the world. Case studies highlighted in this volume demonstrate how advocates can work for sustainable growth and break down silos, from the local level all the way to a global scale.
5. Food or War by Julian Cribb
History is riddled with examples of food shortages leading to wars, Cribb argues in Food or War, and the future of our food system could pose equal risks—or opportunity for creativity and innovation. Cribb outlines a new food system that’s better equipped to respond to a changing climate, a growing human population, and ever-present health and affordability concerns. And at stake, Cribb shows, is the peace and survival of the planet.
6. Food Routes by Robyn Metcalfe
Metcalfe is a food historian and a food futurist, and both those seemingly divergent roles come into play in Food Routes. She follows the physical paths that food travels from producer to consumer, illuminating the forces that shape the supply chain and dictate whether we are able to eat locally or globally. Then, Metcalfe considers the ways technology is poised to change our food chains—and whether it’s possible for the food system to offer personalized and convenient choices while still being equitable and connected to the land.
Food Town, USA chronicles seven U.S. cities that author Mark Winne terms “the new face of the food movement”—not necessarily classic food destinations, but instead locales like Boise, Idaho; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; and Sitka, Alaska. Winne, a noted thinker and advocate for urban food accessibility, traveled to each city to talk with the innovators, legislators, and activists making these unlikely places the strongest examples of how healthy, sustainable food—and passionate individuals—can change communities.
8. Food Wise by Gigi Berardi
Berardi, a professor at Western Washington University, encourages people to eat food W.I.S.E.: Whole, Informed, Sustainable, and Experienced with friends and family. Food Wise is a practical guide to choosing food that meets these goals. Berardi explores supermarket aisles, popular diets, and media messages about healthy foods to help people make decisions about how to eat nutritiously and sustainably.
9. Girl on the Block by Jessica Wragg
When Jessica Wragg was 16 years old, there was only one woman working behind the counter of her local butcher shop: Wragg herself. Now, a decade later, Wragg wrote Girl on the Block to recount her experiences in the male-dominated world of butchery and to have a serious conversation about the problematic sexism and ageism, the studied craftsmanship, and the fascinating nature of the modern meat industry.
10. Going Over Home by Charles D. Thompson Jr. (forthcoming Oct. 4, 2019)
Thompson, an anthropologist and documentarian, grew up in a family of small farmers in southwestern Virginia. Even though all of his family’s farms have since disappeared, Thompson writes about the way his memories of home have grounded his lifelong efforts to fight against injustices. In Going Over Home, Thompson also addresses the history and mythology of American agriculture and explores the ways racism and wealth inequality have impacted rural America and the people who call it home.
11. Green Growth That Works edited by Lisa Ann Mandle, Zhiyun Ouyang, James Edwin Salzman, and Gretchen Cara Daily
As the population of the world grows, the challenge of how to improve people’s quality of life without destroying the Earth’s natural resources—and in an economically viable way—becomes more significant. Using case studies, Green Growth That Works highlights practical ways to bring together financial investment, sustainability, and inclusivity in ways that keep both pollution and poverty at bay.
12. The Labor of Lunch by Jennifer E. Gaddis (forthcoming November 2019)
The Labor of Lunch explores the history of the U.S. National School Lunch Program and the ways that large food corporations have influenced the meals students receive in school. Gaddis argues that healthy, locally sourced lunches are not only better for children but also for cafeteria workers and the environment. From this perspective, she also provides a roadmap for schools to move away from frozen and reheated foods to a more responsive, sustainable tasty lunch program.
13. The Little Local New Orleans Cookbook by Stephanie Carter
In Little Local New Orleans Cookbook, Carter brings together nearly three dozen essential New Orleans recipes, from gumbo and jambalaya to king cake to Sazerac cocktails. Carter, a former editor at Eater NOLA and Edible New Orleans, is an expert on the food culture of the city and fashioned this cookbook as a guide through one of America’s most iconic food locales.
14. Meat Planet by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft
Wurgaft asks a series of important questions in Meat Planet. Is laboratory-created meat the future of food? If so, what does this mean for our environmental, social, and economic well-being—and what does it say about us as humans? Wurgaft has spent five years studying the development of lab-cultured meat, giving him a uniquely long-range view of one of the most talked-about phenomena in today’s food landscape.
15. The Pacific Northwest Seafood Cookbook by Naomi Tomky
In The Pacific Northwest Seafood Cookbook, Tomky, an award-winning food writer and Food Tank contributor, explores the indigenous and immigrant influences on the Pacific Northwest’s seafood culture through 75 recipes featuring sustainable and tasty ingredients. From conversations with people living in the region, Tomky explains how to select seafood, covers techniques such as grilling and curing, and offers need-to-know tips.
Cidermaker Andy Brennan thinks we’ve done too much cultivating—it’s time to uncultivate, he argues, which means re-learning about the world through nature and realizing the advantages of leaving the wild to its own devices. Apples grown on trees that haven’t been manipulated by humans, he explains, are tasty and healthy, even if they don’t resemble the industrial ideal. In Uncultivated, Brennan recollects his own agricultural experiences and argues for the powerful benefits of expanding our idea of agricultural success.
17. We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer
Foer, a novelist, returns to nonfiction in We Are the Weather to zero in on a paradox of our time. Many people accept that climate change is caused by humans, Foer notes—but then they don’t change any of their unsustainable behaviors. Exploring the ways we can reform our diets to protect the Earth, Foer asks a provocative question: are people who accept that human activity is influencing the climate but don’t make meaningful life changes any less destructive for the future than those who reject human-caused climate change altogether?
18. We Will Feast by Kendall Vanderslice
Vanderslice, a food and theology researcher, noticed that people have been leaving traditional churches for a new movement of dinner-church, where worship takes place around a physical table and is intertwined with a community meal. In We Will Feast, Vanderslice traces the history of the meal in Christianity and explores how the practice of eating together is offering worshippers a new way to connect with religion and, crucially, each other.
19. Wilted by Julie Guthman
Nearly nine out of every ten strawberries grown in the U.S. come from California, but food scholar and geographer Guthman argues that the sweetness of the berry masks a bitter underbelly. In Wilted, Guthman explores the ways that toxic soil fumigants, climate, and human labor under poor conditions were responsible for the success of California strawberries but now threaten the continuation of the industry.