Nutrition and historical food books

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These books about all things gastronomical offer plenty of food for thought

Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal

Tristram Stuart, Penguin, £9.99

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Taking its place beside works such as Charles Clover’s ‘The End of the Line’ or Felicity Lawrence’s ‘Not on the Label’, ‘Waste’ is an exhaustively researched study of the problems humans have created in their unending search for that most basic need – a regular supply of food.

In what feels like many years of work, Stuart has overlooked no scrap of information or morsel of data in the quest to discover why we in the West discard half of the food we produce while millions starve.

It’s a hugely complicated issue, and one that Stuart tackles admirably, covering every stage of food production from farming to trade and sale, and what actually makes it to our plates.

Blame for the immense profligacy is spread far and wide: Western trade agreements; multinationals’ control over whole areas of food production; commodity markets; the relentless pursuit of profit by supermarket chains; and our own complicity in accepting a fundamentally illogical situation where food resources are seen as infinite.

Although Stuart supplies plenty of shocking illustrations of our modern attitude to food waste, recounting shop bins full of edible food and mountains of rotting bananas in the tropics, the book is not without optimism. The author has travelled the world investigating solutions which can reverse the trend of waste – from reducing consumption to redistribution and food recycling.

The only problem with ‘Waste’ is that the endless facts and dense prose can sometimes feel impenetrable. It is is a vitally important and impressively comprehensive book which should be compulsory reading for everyone from Gordon Brown to shoppers in the aisles of Tesco, but a more approachable tone would perhaps have garnered a wider audience.

Euan Ferguson, Time Out London Issue 2040: September 24-30 2009

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