A concerned chef puts the food supply under scrutiny and comes up with some bad news about what’s wrong with the way we’re growing our food and eating it too.
Cooper, formerly executive chef at the Putney Inn in Vermont and currently a consultant for the Culinary Institute of America, is a passionate advocate of small-scale, sustainable farming (which she defines as a method that returns to the earth as much as it consumes) and a sharp critic of agribusiness (large-scale industrial farming). After a brief history of food and agriculture in the US, she takes a look at various sustainable farming practices, such as organic dairy farming and low-chemical weed and pest control. Personal visits to several Vermont farms illustrate this section. Next, she turns to agribusiness, describing the technological developments—bioengineering, growth hormones, feed additives, pesticides—that have changed and are continuing to change how crops, meats, poultry, and fish are produced. Her vision of the future is one where sustainable farming would adopt the best of emerging technologies and strictly control the introduction of potentially harmful practices. She describes the many ways the government acts to ensure the safety of the food supply, but warns that ultimately consumers themselves must take responsibility for food safety. Tips on food handling safety are provided, as well as recommendations on fighting disease by eating healthily, buying carefully (by reading labels on processed foods), and educating our children about nutrition. In her concluding chapters she urges consumers to buy local produce, request regional and organic produce in their supermarkets, and plant gardens (if only herbs on the kitchen windowsill).
Unfortunately, Cooper has bitten off more than she can chew, and the effectiveness of her many food-related messages is weakened by a lack of focus.