If you’ve been on any Zoom calls or webinars with me over the past two years, you know I like books (and no, this is not a staged backdrop). Regardless of the virtual and audio options available today, from my perspective, there is nothing like a book in your hand (or on the shelf for easy reference). And yes, I have more books than I can read, but here are two books for giving or receiving this season that will provide food for thought and lively conversation!
The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats by Daniel Stone, 2018. This is a fascinating book that chronicles the true adventures of David Fairchild, a young junior scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (and son of the first president of a land grant university) who traveled the world and truly changed what America eats. Stone writes: “In the nineteenth century American meals were about substance not enjoyment. Agriculture yielded stable crops (corn, soybeans, barley) but the availability of what we consider ‘routine’ fruits and vegetables were nonexistent.” He continues: we “didn’t know it, but America had a need for David Fairchild” as his curiosity and desire to explore and experience the world brought foods that enriched the American farmer and forever changed the way, we as Americans, we eat. (Spoiler Alert: oranges and apples are not native to the United States.) Stone is a writer for National Geographic and a former White House correspondent for Newsweek.
Resetting the Table: Straight Talk About the Food We Grow and Eat by Robert Paarlberg (published earlier this year) is a book for conversation and debate. As Jayson Lusk stated in his blog earlier this year, “Robert Paarlberg fact checks the most central myths of the modern food movement. Paarlberg’s firm grasp on the realities of modern agriculture lend credence to his insights on how we might take meaningful steps toward solving our dietary and environmental ills.” He argues that food policy, rather than farm policy, should serve as the focal point of action. In doing so, he offers valuable straight talk to commercial farmers and highlights the critical importance of continued innovation and entrepreneurship in agricultural production. From “discussing the limitations of local food” to the “fate of farm animals” and whether “peasants should stay poor,” this is definitely a “must read” book as we sort out the sustainable food scenario and 2022 trends. Paarlberg is a professor of political science at Wellesley College, adjunct professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and chair of an independent steering committee for a global research program at Agriculture for Nutrition and Health.