8 books to fix our food system

OLIO's best food books

8 books to fix our food system

Food is one of the most captivating and complex topics of our times, so we have compiled our top must-read books that are guaranteed to educate, inform and inspire. These books explore every tenet of our food system, from how it is produced, distributed and eaten, to how it is often sadly thrown away, and the environmental implications of this.

1. Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal by Tristram Stuart

Waste - Tristram Stuart

The sheer scale of waste documented in Stuart’s compelling book is astounding. From farms, in the sea or in supermarkets, at every level of the supply chain, it is obscene and most startlingly, avoidable. Stuart’s argument is straightforward: let’s stop wasting food and feed bellies, not bins.

Top quote: Who cares if a carrot has a slight bend? They’re all the same when they end up on the plate.”

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2. Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets by Joanna Blythman

Swallow This - Joanna Blythman

What are those indecipherable chemicals found on food packaging and what are they doing to us? Blythman provides some much-needed transparency on the food industry, uncovering the murky ingredients and questionable processes that go into our food. Eye-opening and unpalatable stuff.

Top quote: “Why would Mother Nature create such deviant fats to shorten life expectancy?”

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3. The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber

Third Plate - Dan Barber

Celebrated chef, Dan Barber puts forward his case for the third plate – food that is rooted in ‘seasonal productivity, natural livestock rhythms, whole-grains, and small portions of free-range meat’. Barber’s culinary vision of the future will be sure shift your sensibilities.

Top quote: “The world is now awash in monocultures of genetically uniform varieties, fed by chemical fertilizers.”

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4. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Eating Animals - Jonathan Safran Foer

In this deeply personal account, Foer wrestles with his on-off struggle with vegetarianism, confronts the morality of meat consumption and exposes himself and the reader to the barbaric inner-workings of factory farming. This is a poetically compassionate and powerfully convincing book that might make you drop the pork chop.

Top quote: “Not responding is a response – we are equally responsible for what we don’t do.”

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5. The Food Activist Handbook by Ali Berlow

The Food Activist Handbook - Ali Berlow

Ali Berlow has put forward an empowering guide for all those budding food activists out there. There are all sorts of ways you can strengthen your community through food, from organising a community composting initiative to starting a school garden.

Top quote: “Small steps can create big changes in your community’s food quality and food security.”

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6. Eating Planet by Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition

Eating Planet

With a projected 9 billion people expected to be on earth by 2050, global demand for food will be greater than ever before. This book addresses this urgent challenge with the help of an international panel of experts who provide illuminating solutions.

Top quote: “No subject today is perhaps so rich and deep and complex in its reality, and yet so poor and narrow and simplistic in its common portrayal, as is our food.”

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7. First Bite: How we learn to eat by Bee Wilson

How we learn to eat - Bee Wilson

Wilson expertly picks apart the psychology of eating, unearthing how our palettes are influenced and informed by a number of factors, from family, culture, memory and gender. It’s revelatory reading (especially for those fussy eaters).

Top quote: “The way you teach a child to eat well is through example, enthusiasm, and patient exposure to good food. And when that fails, you lie.”

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8. Nose to Tail Eating – Fergus Henderson

Nose to tail eating - Fergus Henderson

This is a culinary classic that goes the whole hog. Henderson promotes his philosophy of nose-to-tail eating and how we should eat an entire animal, rather than throw away less favoured cuts. Off-cuts and offal are embraced with creative, zero-waste recipes.

Top quote: “If you’re going to kill the animal it seems only polite to use the whole thing.”

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What are you reading and what are we missing from this list? Do let us know in the comments below!