Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food

Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food

Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food

Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food

Synopsis

In this provocative and lively addition to his acclaimed writings on food, Warren Belasco takes a sweeping look at a little-explored yet timely topic: humanity's deep-rooted anxiety about the future of food. People have expressed their worries about the future of the food supply in myriad ways, and here Belasco explores a fascinating array of material ranging over two hundred years--from futuristic novels and films to world's fairs, Disney amusement parks, supermarket and restaurant architecture, organic farmers' markets, debates over genetic engineering, and more. Placing food issues in this deep historical context, he provides an innovative framework for understanding the future of food today--when new prophets warn us against complacency at the same time that new technologies offer promising solutions. But will our grandchildren's grandchildren enjoy the cornucopian bounty most of us take for granted? This first history of the future to put food at the center of the story provides an intriguing perspective on this question for anyone--from general readers to policy analysts, historians, and students of the future--who has wondered about the future of life's most basic requirement.

Excerpt

Food is important. In fact, nothing is more basic. Food is the first of the essentials of life, our biggest industry, our greatest export, and our most frequently indulged pleasure. Food means creativity and diversity. As a species, humans are omnivorous; we have tried to eat virtually everything on the globe, and our ability to turn a remarkable array of raw substances into cooked dishes, meals, and feasts is evidence of astounding versatility, adaptability, and aesthetic ingenuity. Food is also the object of considerable concern and dread. What we eat and how we eat it together may constitute the single most important cause of disease and death. As psychologist Paul Rozin puts it, “Food is fundamental, fun, frightening, and far-reaching.”

Probably nothing is more frightening or far-reaching than the prospect of running out of food. “A hungry stomach will not allow its owner to forget it, whatever his cares and sorrows,” Homer wrote almost three thousand years ago. Even in good times, we are not allowed to forget our deeply rooted heritage of food insecurity. “When thou hast enough,” Ecclesiasticus warned circa 180 B.C., “remember the time of hunger.” Designed to take advantage of any surplus, our bodies store up fat for the next famine—hence the current obesity crisis—and our prophets warn us against complacency. Given the mounting environmental concerns about population growth, global warming, soil erosion, water scarcity, agrochemical pollution, energy shortages, diminishing returns from fertilizers, and so on, it does seems justified to wonder whether the current ban-

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