Hamburgers in Paradise
Food in a time of scarcity and abundance
What is on our plate? Vegetables, meat or fish? Organic food, slow or fast food, vegetarian, vegan or omnivore fare? Although we may not often stop to think about it, we are inextricably linked to the planet on which we live by our need to eat to survive. This makes the issues involved all the more complicated. In Hamburgers in Paradise, Louise Fresco serves up that complexity as a menu that invites us to sample history and culture, science and politics.
Fresco is well placed to write this erudite and nuanced book, having had experience in the field in developing countries and held a leading position at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. She uncovers the geographical, biological, psychological and historical roots of contemporary food issues, and demonstrates that questions about what we should and should not eat cannot be answered in a vacuum. First we need insight into how food production and consumption relate to ecosystems, agriculture, economics and politics, both local and global.
Fresco argues that we must also take account of the relationship between food and health, energy problems and ancient geochemical cycles, as well as sustainability and patterns of consumption, ethics and idealism, religion and fanaticism, reason and emotion, science and superstition, art and culture. Much of our dissatisfaction on the subject of food arises from a longing for paradise, a stable, diverse and productive ecosystem in which harmony reigns and difficult choices never arise. But such a place is a biological impossibility. The closest we come to it is an overstuffed fridge, and we never ask how such abundance ended up in there.
Fresco leads us through this complexity firmly and clearly, zooming in on detail (the wheat field in a Van Gogh painting), then out again to look at the world as a whole (the urbanization of the global population). She is committed, passionate and critical, making no secret of her engagement. And yes, she is optimistic where others see only the negative impact of Western civilization. She wants to open up the debate so that it is based on empirical, scientific findings rather than idealistic wishful thinking.
The central premise of the book is that comprehension is a prerequisite of conscience. Any worthwhile discussion about food will be impossible unless we know how it gets to our plates. If for that reason alone, this is essential reading for all right-thinking diners.
- Shows that eating has for centuries been about more than simply taking in calories.
- Based on scientific facts, knowledge and expert insight.
- Written with such clarity that everyone will it find both readable and stimulating.