Mark Bittman is a food writer who doesn’t like food very much—at least not the way it’s been produced over the last 12,000 years. Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal covers the evolution of agriculture from the age of man to modern industrial farming, but it’s no sunny tale of human ingenuity.
In his view, human greed sluiced through the capitalist system has created an intolerable modern food system that is poisoning both humans and the planet, breeding poverty, slavery, war, and every other bad thing one could conceive. There’s a blurb from Mr. Global Warming himself, former Vice President Al Gore. Inside the jacket flap are quotes from Malcolm X and Naomi Klein; the table is being set for an astringent left-wing repast.
After some brisk chemistry and history lessons (soil needs nitrogen, civilization was a mistake), the reader is deposited at the end of the last Ice Age, when agriculture began to take root.