Last year, we shared our seven essential reads on food systems covering many different aspects of food systems and food cultures. This year we have an updated collection of books for you to add to your summer reading list! Whether you’re interested in growing food, cooking it, eating it, or just learning more about food and all of the many ways it plays into our lives, we’ve got something for you!
Retail Inequality by Kenneth H. Kolb
We Don’t Waste in the business of making sure everyone, no matter their background, has equal access to nutritious food. For us, that means we provide free food to communities across Denver in areas considered to be “food deserts” or “food apartheids.” These are neighborhoods that lack multiple options for affordable, nutritious food. “Food apartheid” addresses the nature of intentional scarcity by the strategic placement of retail stores and whole-food markets in wealthy neighborhoods. Kolb takes a deep dive into two neighborhoods in Greenville, South Carolina, that have spent decades without access to nutritious food, and how the retail and food industry, and even public policy, contribute to the unequal access present in these communities.
Foodtopia by Margot Anne Kelley
Food isn’t just about nutrition and survival, but is also intrinsically tied to our lifestyle. Throughout America’s industrial and capitalistic history, there have continually been surges of the “back of the yard” counterculture movement. Through gardens, homesteads, and moving out to land far from the city centers, Kelley covers 5 groups—from the 1840s up through the COVID-19 pandemic—that have taken food production into their own hands in a form of radical self-sustenance. Fueled by the drive for furthering the sustainability of our land and water resources, racial equity, anti-consumerism, and control of their health through food, these groups found independence and their own “Foodtopias” in their backyard.
To Boldly Grow by Tamar Haspel
Part memoir and part how-to guide, self-proclaimed “crappy gardener” Haspel shares the story of how she and her husband decided to reclaim their diets by growing their own food, keeping chickens, fishing, and even going out into the woods to forage for mushrooms, root bulbs, and anything else they find that is edible! Haspel’s goal is to prove that going out and making food or finding it ourselves really isn’t as difficult as it’s made out to be, as she shared her stories of triumph in MacGyvering harvesting tools, and by sharing the spectacular failures that ruined Thanksgiving dinner. In the end, Haspel discovers how the way we interact with and consume our food can change the way we think about our food—and even ourselves.
Getting Something to Eat in Jackson by Joseph C. Edwoozie, Jr.
Edwoozie, Jr. takes a deep dive into the way “foodways”—food availability, choice, and consumption—are changing in Jackson, Mississippi, and how the changing culture surrounding race is impacting food culture, and vice versa. Historically, food in Jackson had been a unifying force for Black Jacksonians in Mississippi, but as Edwoozie, Jr. discovers, the way people consume food has changed because of the existence of food deserts, the perception and reality of class differences, and how vegetarianism and veganism as a way to address health outcomes have all but displaced the traditional culture of “soul food” in the urban south. Edwoozie, Jr. spends a year following a diverse socioeconomic array of Jacksonians and discovers the habits and trends of the modern food culture and how it reflects societal changes in the area.
I Am From Here by Viswath Bhatt
There are few things more comforting than a home-cooked meal, and for Bhatt, this would be a combination of American Southern food and traditional Indian cuisine. Bhatt has been the executive chef of the Snackbar in Oxford, Mississippi since 2009, earning him Best Chef: South (2019 James Beard Awards) and induction into the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans, and Chefs in 2022. This collection of stories and instruction includes over 130 recipes inviting you to grill, fry, and boil your way into a more delicious dinner evoking the flavors of an evolving southern cuisine.
What Your Food Ate by David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé
When you think of the quality and the health benefits of the meat you eat, you’re also probably thinking about the things that animal was eating while it was alive. Montgomery and Bilke argue that the same standard should be applied to the plants we eat as well! Combining multiple scientific disciplines and weaving them into one cohesive story, Montgomery and Bilke show how the health of our soil has a direct impact on the quality of the food we consume and the health of humans as a whole. Can we produce enough quantity and quality food? We’ve got to heal the sick soil to do that, and the results of this could help reverse the modern epidemic of chronic diseases and mitigate climate change.
The Regenerative Garden by Stephanie Rose
Discover how you can work with nature, as opposed to against it, by employing permaculture techniques in your garden. Through 80 different DIY projects, you can explore how to make your garden more eco-conscious and more resilient. Whether you’re working with an acre, a small raised bed, growing a grove of trees, or a single tomato plant, there are plenty of tricks and habits for you to implement to make permaculture accessible and working hard for your garden.
Iwigara by Enrique Salmón
The belief that all life-forms are interconnected and share the same breath—known in the Rarámuri tribe as iwígara—has resulted in a treasury of knowledge about the natural world, passed down for millennia by native cultures. Ethnobotanist Enrique Salmón builds on this concept of connection and highlights 80 plants revered by North America’s indigenous peoples. Salmón teaches us the ways plants are used as food and medicine, the details of their identification and harvest, and their important health benefits, plus their role in traditional stories and myths.
How We Eat by Paco Underhill
In this upbeat and witty approach, How We Eat reveals the future of food in surprising ways. Go to the heart of New York City, where a popular farmer’s market signifies how the city is getting country-fied, or to cool Brooklyn neighborhoods with rooftop farms. Explore the dreaded supermarket parking lot as the hub of innovation for grocery stores’ futures, or how marijuana farmers, who have been using artificial light to grow a crop for years, have developed a playbook on indoor farming for mainstream merchants like Walmart and farmers across the world. In How We Eat, Underhill shows how food intersects with every major battle we face today, from political and environmental to economic and racial, and invites you to the market to discover more.