This is the first book I’ve read by Jay Rayner and on the whole, I like where he’s coming from. A writer and food critic from London, Rayner’s book is both a story about his family and an exploration of current issues around food.
This is not a book pushing one particular agenda – in fact, it’s probably the most even-handed analysis of the issues in food culture I’ve read… but that’s also kind of its downfall. Every argument presented seems to be followed with the opposite point of view – a great indication of how complex the issues are, but kind of frustrating to me as a reader, when I’m hoping someone else will have done the analysis for me and simply dished it up in an easily digestible format (pun alert!)
The main thrust of the book is that we really need to address the way our world’s population is impacting food resources. However, attempting to moderate this impact based only on Western patterns of consumption misses the point entirely. The answer is not that readers of this book should adopt some basic dietary changes – we simply don’t have the numbers. Westerners eating seasonally, locally produced, organic food really makes no difference to the big picture – not unless we can impact dietary choices worldwide, which of course we can’t. Rayner’s argument comes down to sustainability – which is really more complicated than I would have suspected. The role of corporate agriculture, the big supermarket chains, imported food – these are not necessarily “bad”. The danger really lies in our perceptions, assumptions and a distorted marketplace that has allowed the consumer to become used to not paying the true price of food.
The main call to action I took from this book as a consumer was the imperative that we stop wasting the food we have. A 2013 study mentioned states that up to 50% of all food produced globally is wasted or lost at some point along the supply chain. Maybe attempting to correct our own wastage is actually the most meaningful thing we can do. Provided of course a chunk of the nine billion people on this planet do the same.