Book Review: The Taste of Tomorrow by Josh Schonwald
April 19, 2012 6 Comments
Number of pages: 304
First published: 2012 (April 10th)
Genre: non-fiction, food
I got this: for review from Harper as an uncorrected proof copy
Full title: The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food
I’m always interested in books about food. I don’t mean cooking books (although I enjoy those too), but books about how food is made, the stories behind what’s on the shelves at the supermarket.
This is a book about what will be on the shelves at the supermarket, in around 20 years’ time. It’s an exploration of what food scientists and food producers are working on so that we can enjoy a nice plate of food in 2035.
The Taste of Tomorrow: What it is about
Harper, the publishers, say this: “Journalist Josh Schonwald set out on a journey to discover what the “salad, meat, seafood, and Kung Pao chicken of the future” might look like. It would take him across the country and into farms and labs around the globe. From Alice Waters’ micro farm to a secret Pentagon facility that has quietly shaped the American supermarket, The Taste of Tomorrow is a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at what we eat today—and what we’ll be eating tomorrow.
Schonwald introduces us to a motley group of mad scientists and entrepreneurs, renegade farmers, and food engineers who are revolutionizing the food we eat. There is the Harvard pediatrician who wants to change the way humans raise fish; a New York chef who believes he’s found the next great ethnic cuisine; a lawyer-turned-nanotechnologist determined to eliminate hunger.”
The Taste of Tomorrow: What I thought
This book is almost a memoir in that we follow the writer around the country (USA in particular, but he also visits my country, the Netherlands) researching the future of food. Unfortunately, quite early on, the writer confesses that he isn’t a great dairy eater, so he leaves out anything to do with dairy foods. Bummer! I’m a vegetarian and I love dairy foods!
Now, being a vegetarian doesn’t mean per sé that I’m not interested in the chapters about meat and fish (I do actually eat fish every now and then). Depending on why one is a vegetarian one might enjoy a nice slab of laboratory-grown meat. No animals are hurt in the process, although the basis is animal cells. You will have to wait a bit: it looks like the research into lab meat is only happening on a small scale in a small country.
The book begins with salad, however, and discusses how new salad ingredients have conquered the supermarket shelf quite recently and chances are that yet new varieties will be added in the near future. Then there’s meat and fish. For the latter the author explores big, indoor fish tanks where fish are reared not unlike chickens and other meats currently: close together, not much room to move, but very controlled conditions which will produce the safest and highest quantities of fish. I don’t know that I like that!
Schonwald also discusses the virtues of genetically modified food (although he is not in the first instance a proponent): higher yields per acre (feed the world), reduction in pesticide use (using crops that are not tasty for pests), nitrogen output reduction (crops that absorb nitrogen) and his favorite: a GM vitamin A-enhanced rice that can stop children in developing countries from contracting blindness. Interesting!
The final part of the book discusses ethnic food – the last frontier is African food. No, not the well-known North-African food, but the sub-saharan food that many people don’t know. It’s the only continent left unexplored!
Sometimes the book goes a little too deep into the subject matter but I never found it exactly boring, just sometimes wasn’t sure I needed to know all this. The writing is very personable, never technical, and always easy to follow.
Also interesting: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser or All-Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki (fiction).