Every once in a while we get 2 copies of the same book for the You Review program. And, because fate wouldn’t have it any other way, both reviewers of this particular title handed in their review on exactly the same day, within hours.
Reviewed by Julie de Graaf
In The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food journalist Josh Schonwald investigates the kinds of food we will eat in 2035. More specifically Schonwald sets out to find our future salad, meat, fish and ethnic food (“the next Pad Thai”). In the book he describes his travels from California (salad heaven) and the Netherlands (apparently our small country is the place to be for test-tube grown meat), to Virginia (where cobia-fish, “the next salmon”, are being farmed in big warehouses) and sub-Saharan Africa.
Schonwald writes in a personal manner; switching from his own experiences and travel anecdotes to scientific research and interviews with experts. For me Schonwald’s personal stories were interesting and easy to read, but the more serious, scientific parts were a bit dry. I mean, I like to learn more about food, but I do not enjoy to read in great length about the history of lettuce. Still, even with these somewhat boring parts, The Taste of Tomorrow makes for an interesting read for everyone who wants to know more about the future of food.
Reviewed by Ellyn Cook
When it hit the table, The Taste of Tomorrow looked appetising; the back cover marketing steaming with the promise of ‘a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at what we eat today – and what we’ll be eating tomorrow’ was enough to get any epicurean reader salivating. Yet, as the time honoured saying goes, the proof of the pudding was indeed in the eating.
In parts 1 & 2 Josh Schonwald presented a flavoursome entrée. Exploring a mixed (plastic) bag of (pre-cut and pre-washed) salad greens, we journeyed to the Sakinas Valley in California to explore why, from a library of more than fourteen thousand types of globally sourced lettuce seeds, few will ever be cultivated, and how the alternative potential candidate for the next ‘paradigm-shifting green’ could well be radicchio, a variety of chicory with an impressive back-catalogue of heirloom varieties that are rapidly becoming re-popularised. It was a nice fresh start but it didn’t last. Somewhat surprisingly a sudden sizable chunk of pro-GMO babble was served up straight after the salad. Uncritical recitation of Biotech Inc.’s standard industry line that GMOs are ‘technologies that could feed the world and protect the planet’ was neither original nor persuasive and imparted a sour taste to the remainder of the fare.
For main course (parts 3 & 4), there was meat and fish. Well, sort of. Here Schonwald examined what might become the meats of the future, efforts currently underway to grow meat in-vitro and the rise of land-based fish farming, aquaculture being the swiftest growing source of food production today. These were topics ambitiously attempted but poorly developed and executed – pushing unpalatable – as Schonwald’s chosen subjects are little more than concepts at present and whether (and why, or not) they catch on will remain highly provisional for some time yet. After a while the reliance on personal travel experiences and over-done anecdotes made the text bland and chewy; careful editing could have trimmed a lot of fat from these sections.
Dessert (parts 5 & 6) consisted of the last culinary frontier (read ‘reach of globalisation’) of ‘ethnic’ food yearning: the mystery-meat dishes and starchy staples and stews of sub- Saharan (non-Ethiopian) Africa. This was followed by the idea that nanotechnology could one day provide humanity with nutrients for survival. It proved a disparate mix: the idea of turning traditional foods of peoples afflicted by here-and-now poverty, hunger, war, sickness, even access to safe drinking water, into the next novelty menu trend, juxtaposed with the profligate indulgences of those pursuing a fanciful ‘nano panacea’.
The Taste of Tomorrow is a novel idea, yet fatally misses the fundamental spice of the food contemplation genre: development of sophisticated discourse on food politics – the inevitable roles that governments, multinational corporations, environmentalists, mono-culture agribusinesses, local communities and consumers should, do and will play in the future of our foods. After all, this is a genre dominated by such five-star food politics chefs as Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, The Botany of Desire), Jennifer Lawrence (Not on the Label), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Marion Nestle (Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism), whose works have demonstrated that no matter what agricultural or technological innovations come along, from seed to shelf it’s food politics rather than food preferences that will likely determine what we will come to eat.
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