When a book begins with an essay titled “A Food Manifesto for the Future,” you know the author is on a mission.
Food writer Bittman’s (How to Cook Everything Fast, 2014, etc.) collection of previously published New York Times articles deftly deconstructs how America’s reliance on fossil fuels, the cruel mass production of animals, and an overuse of hyperprocessed junk foods have created a food system in tatters and left many Americans sick. Regular readers of the Times will know Bittman’s work. However, by gathering the articles into a complete narrative, the compilation provides an all-inclusive look at the author’s findings across a range of topics. For those readers unfamiliar with Bittman’s knowledge of the issues, it makes grasping a multifaceted subject less daunting. Moreover, if at times the author repeats some points, it matters little compared to the importance of the information. Written between 2008 and 2014, the articles are arranged topically rather than chronologically. This structure allows readers to grasp the evolution of issues such as the sustainability (or not) of big agriculture; the issues surrounding the production and consumption of meat; what constitutes real food; dieting; the various ways America’s food chain fails its citizens; and how legislation and labeling affect what we eat. Bittman bolsters his conclusions with the voices of numerous scientists, and he calls out big pharma and industrialized agriculture for the use of antibiotics in meat. He also scolds the food industry for its workers’ low wages. The author’s keen analysis of the weakness of the Food and Drug Administration and its failures regarding food safety proves especially informative and enraging. Bittman successfully links a sound food system not just to the tastes of foodies (a word the author dislikes), but also to larger public health issues.
An intelligent rallying cry for anyone seeking a safe and healthy food supply, and all that entails.