Review: The Taste of Tomorrow by Josh Schonwald
Publish Date: April 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover | 304 pages
Rating: 4 of 5
In The Taste of Tomorrow, journalist Josh Schonwald sets out on a journey to investigate the future of food. His quest takes him across the country and into farms and labs around the planet. We get an inside look at the global food production industry, the future of our food supply and what we may be eating tomorrow.
We begin our journey into the future of food with a theoretical look at a meal in the year 2035. In this future, a quarter pound of grass-fed, free-range, antibiotic-free char-grilled Hereford burger will set you back $60 dollars, whereas a burger from the bioreactor will only cost $10. Fake meat? Let’s hope that doesn’t happen any time soon. Now we return to the present.
A discussion of the evolution of bagged salad greens was fascinating. I can remember a time when only iceberg lettuce was available in the grocery store. My mom would grow buttercrunch and other tasty, leafy greens in her garden and I wondered why they weren’t available at the store. The reason was simple, iceberg was the only lettuce that would travel for more than a few days without rotting. The author goes behind the scenes and interviews some of the people instrumental in bringing a variety of lettuce and vegetables to our tables year round and talks about new varieties being developed.
I was not impressed with the future of meat, and there is a slight amount of ick-factor in reading about in vitro meat labs and mouse burgers. Lab meat doesn’t do much for me, and neither does the thought of eating exotic animals raised from DNA samples. I’m not much of a meat eater to begin with and those choices would send me over the edge to an all plant and fish diet!
I was surprised to learn that 90% of the fish eaten in the United States is imported. There are a lot of regulations on fish farming and the future of fish may be indoor, inland aquaculture. Several of these farms exist and the author visited one in Martinsville, Virginia, to see for himself. The search for a sustainable fish to farm has already begun, with Cobia and Barramundi top contenders. (I am not familiar with Cobia, but I have eaten Barramundi and it is one of the best tasting fish I’ve ever had. I am eagerly waiting for it to appear on the grocery shelves in the US.)
There is also some discussion of genetically modified foods and while the author doesn’t endorse it, he is not against it either. While I understand the need to economically feed a growing population, I’m not convinced that GMO is harmless and that at some point in the future we might sorry we unleashed something irreversible into our already fragile environment.
Overall the book is well-researched covering both current farming techniques and speculating on what the future will bring to our table. It’s written in a very readable and often entertaining style. At times it gets a little too detailed with more than we need or want to know. There are a lot of interesting bits of information here if you dig them out, but at times I was tempted to skim over some of the lengthy descriptions of the farms, techniques and background information.
At the end, the author also briefly discussed ‘The End of Food’, where eating a meal would be replaced by a pill. Soylent Green anyone? A meal in a pill has been talked about for decades, first envisioned by DARPA, the US government agency that brought us stealth aircraft, lasers, and APRANET, the precursor to the internet. The military appears to be the only one enthusiastic about pill food. While I can see the use of an energy bar or a supplement, it’s doubtful that pills will ever substitute for meals in the general population. Eating is a social activity, and for most people, a good meal is a pleasurable event, something to savor and enjoy.
I would recommend this book to those interested in understanding how some of our food is produced today, where it may be headed tomorrow and who enjoy reading about the research behind the story.
Source: Review copy.
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