Louise O. Fresco
A Life-long Story
Looking back on a life’s work in food and agriculture – and to the future
Louise O. Fresco is one of the Netherlands’ most influential voices when it comes to food and agriculture. Her prolific career – as a thinker, scientist, advisor and writer – has taken her around the globe, much of it to help answer the question of how to feed a growing population. In Our Food she describes how her thinking has changed, combining nuanced reflections on many of today’s most pressing questions with colourful memories from a life dedicated to the fascinating world of food.
Food is an essential part of our lives, and yet its relatively recent abundance in the Western world has come with a disconnect concerning where our food originates. Food is so much more than ingredients, calories and nutrients. Everything we eat has a history, numerous ones in fact, for individuals and collectives. Food means memory, ritual and identity; it brings joy and magic. But we must also consider the future of food if we’re to feed 10 billion mouths by 2050: what will we eat, where will it be produced, and by whom? Feeding the world is not a technological question (we can already do it), but a political one.
Science and writing have always been two complementary modes of inquiry for Fresco, and across fourteen chapters she blends passions and experiences with the latest scientific insights and philosophical reflections on the cultural and ecological facets of food. Food’s history feeds into its future – the stories behind what we eat offer new perspectives. With the clear-sightedness of experience, Fresco explores current preoccupations like our idealisation of more rustic food cultures of the past (‘cucina povera’), the local and hand-picked, and ingredients seen as belonging to specific communities. Things are often more complex than they seem. Much of what is traditional now spread with the movement of people over millennia – a fact recent genetic research is revealing. Many of the supposed benefits of certain sources of food have more to do with expectation, romanticism and purchasing power. Fresco addresses scarcity and abundance, health and disease, GMOs and diversity, commandments and taboos, and the roles of meat and cattle. She offers her vision of the future, in which ecologically-responsible technology is essential to global food security.
Fresco writes with an elegant, associative style, weaving in her personal stories with a rich content, always seeking to disarm polarising debates. Our Food is a highly readable and optimistic plea to reflect on the wonder that is food and the countless aspects of our lives touched by it. For Fresco, knowledge is the gateway to eating with intention (knowing what you eat and why), and the start of living responsibly.