Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives

Carolyn Steel

Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives

Cities cover just 2 per cent of the world's surface, but consume 75 per cent of the world's resources. Global food production increased by 145 per cent in the last 4 decades of the 20th century - yet an estimated 800 million people are still hungry. In 2005 British supermarkets sent half a million tonnes of edible food to landfill - the whole food sector put together sent 17 million tonnes. 100 years ago, the average Brit ate 25 kg of meat each year - now it's 80 kg (and for Americans, 124 kg). One quarter of the British population is obese - one in three meals we eat is a ready meal why? The relationship between food and cities is fundamental to our every day lives. Food shapes cities, and through them, it moulds us - along with the countryside that feeds us.The gargantuan effort necessary to feed cities arguably has a greater social and physical impact on us and our planet than anything else we do. Yet few of us are conscious of the process and we rarely stop to wonder how food reaches our plates. "Hungry City" examines the way in which modern food production has damaged the balance of human existence, and reveals that we have yet to resolve a centuries-old dilemma - one which holds the key to a host of current problems, from obesity, the inexorable rise of the supermarkets, to the destruction of the natural world.Carolyn Steel follows food on its journey - from the land (and sea) to market and supermarket, kitchen to table, waste-dump and back again - exploring the historical roots and the contemporary issues at each stage of food's cycle. She shows how our lives and our environment are being manipulated but explains how we can change things for the better. 3.5 out of 5 based on 6 reviews
Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Society, Politics & Philosophy, Food & Drink
Format Paperback
Pages 400
RRP £12.99
Date of Publication June 2008
ISBN 978-0701180379
Publisher Chatto & Windus
 

Cities cover just 2 per cent of the world's surface, but consume 75 per cent of the world's resources. Global food production increased by 145 per cent in the last 4 decades of the 20th century - yet an estimated 800 million people are still hungry. In 2005 British supermarkets sent half a million tonnes of edible food to landfill - the whole food sector put together sent 17 million tonnes. 100 years ago, the average Brit ate 25 kg of meat each year - now it's 80 kg (and for Americans, 124 kg). One quarter of the British population is obese - one in three meals we eat is a ready meal why? The relationship between food and cities is fundamental to our every day lives. Food shapes cities, and through them, it moulds us - along with the countryside that feeds us.The gargantuan effort necessary to feed cities arguably has a greater social and physical impact on us and our planet than anything else we do. Yet few of us are conscious of the process and we rarely stop to wonder how food reaches our plates. "Hungry City" examines the way in which modern food production has damaged the balance of human existence, and reveals that we have yet to resolve a centuries-old dilemma - one which holds the key to a host of current problems, from obesity, the inexorable rise of the supermarkets, to the destruction of the natural world.Carolyn Steel follows food on its journey - from the land (and sea) to market and supermarket, kitchen to table, waste-dump and back again - exploring the historical roots and the contemporary issues at each stage of food's cycle. She shows how our lives and our environment are being manipulated but explains how we can change things for the better.

Reviews

The Guardian

Rosalind Sharpe

REVIEWED IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE END OF FOOD BY PAUL ROBERTS. Steel is an architect who finds evidence in maps and street plans of food's shaping role in urban development... Roberts and Steel work hard not to sound too pessimistic. They find (a few, far-flung) examples of how things are being done differently... Steel postulates a place - Sitopia, from the ancient Greek word for food, sitos - where food would be sustainably produced, as far as possible locally sourced, fairly traded, equitably distributed, and thoughtfully bought, eaten and disposed of. What is needed, they agree, is what Roberts describes as a "fundamental re-imagining" of our relationship with food.

05/07/2008

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The Observer

Hilary Spurling

Hungry City is a sinister real-life sequel to Animal Farm with the plot turned upside down by time in ways even George Orwell could not have foreseen. Its key image is the Pig Tower, a 21st-century Dutch invention for producing pork in custom-built city blocks, each 76 floors high, designed to house pigs in comfortable apartments with lavish bedding and ample rootling space on large, open-air balconies. 'The towers would be powered by bio-gas digesters run on pig manure, and connected to a central abattoir to which the pigs would be moved by lift.' This perfectly rational project would deliver a lifestyle not essentially different, as Carolyn Steel points out, from the conditions currently enjoyed worldwide by many urban human beings.

15/04/2009

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The Daily Telegraph

Carolyn Hart

Steel's book is ostensibly a treatise on how cities are fed, a subject from which she is constantly distracted by sewage disposal, architecture (her real love), kitchen design and rage at industrial civilisation in general - 'an environmental catastrophe in progress'.

11/07/2008

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The Independent

Paul Kingsnorth

Our exodus from the land has created a new situation. Most people eat food of whose provenance they are unaware. Steel runs through the consequences, from supermarket dominance to the pre-eminence of ready meals to the evils of factory farms. Sometimes, she attempts to take on too much. This book is perhaps at its best exploring not the dominance of Tesco, but the fascinating history of the co-dependence of city and country.

18/07/2008

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The Financial Times

Bonnie Powell

Curiously for a book about the central role of food in society, the sensory appeal of eating it, cooking it, or growing it is largely absent. Aside from describing bites of a few heirloom apple varieties and a disappointing meal at one of London’s four Inns at Court (what did she expect?), Steel mostly treats food as an abstract concept and farmers as its faceless, virtuous producers. Her passionate pleas to reform the food system would have been more effective had she aimed less at the head and more at the gut – tempting us with what is worth saving, not just lecturing us about what we must save it from.

15/04/2009

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The Times

David Aarononvitch

[An] exuberant, provocative and irritating book... Steel (alas in one way, hooray in another) can be a superbly undisciplined thinker. Although the possible food and energy gap is a huge subject on its own, she only really devotes two-and-a-half chapters to it, preferring along the way to bound off into almost any aspect of the history of urban food culture that takes her fancy.

15/04/2009

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