Skip to main content

(A kind of) Review: Not On the Label by Felicity Lawrence

Genre: Food writing.
Reading challenge:  The 2016 Nonfiction Reading Challenge, hosted by The Introverted Reader
Challenge tally: 4 books.

I love to read food books, both foodie memoirs and cookbooks, but this is a different kind of food book - one designed to inform and make you think about what you eat and how you shop for it.

The subtitle of this book is "What really goes into the food on your plate". It might lead you to believe that it's all about food additives and such (they are mentioned occasionally, and discussed - stomach churningly - in some detail in the last chapter) but it is actually an investigation of the whole system of mass food production, from crop to factory to distributors to shop to consumer, with a focus on intensively grown/farmed foods like vegetables, fruit, coffee, chicken and shrimp.

The situation Lawrence describes is that of the UK, but much of it is valid for any western country, and I have no doubt it is at least partially true for Iceland. I know I will not look at chicken, salads and apples the same way again after reading this book, nor at supermarket chains and processed food.

Lawrence describes wide-spread human rights abuses in the food industry, dubious, unethical and sometimes downright crooked food production practices (additives are only part of it), how food retailers have a stranglehold on food distributors who in turn have a stranglehold on food producers who have a power of almost life and death over the itinerant workers they need to harvest and sometimes process their products, and practices by the world's largest food producers that have a huge negative impact on the lives of farmers in poor countries.

It's all anger-inducing, and one feels helpless in the face of such entrenched and widespread bad practices, but in the afterword she does offer some ways in which ordinary people can try to work against the systematic abuses detailed in the book, such as buying organic - not from supermarkets - buying fair trade - again, not from supermarkets - and buying local.

Would I read it again? No, I don't think so, but I would definitely read a more recent book on the same subjects, to find out if there have been any developments since Lawrence was researching this subject.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How to make a simple origami bookmark

Here are some instructions on how to make a simple origami (paper folding) bookmark:

Take a square of paper. It can be patterned origami paper, gift paper or even office paper, just as long as it’s easy to fold. The square should not be much bigger than 10 cm/4 inches across, unless you intend to use the mark for a big book. The images show what the paper should look like after you follow each step of the instructions. The two sides of the paper are shown in different colours to make things easier, and the edges and fold lines are shown as black lines.


Fold the paper in half diagonally (corner to corner), and then unfold. Repeat with the other two corners. This is to find the middle and to make the rest of the folding easier. If the paper is thick or stiff it can help to reverse the folds.



Fold three of the corners in so that they meet in the middle. You now have a piece of paper resembling an open envelope. For the next two steps, ignore the flap.



Fold the square diagonally in two. You…

Reading report for January 2014

Here it is, finally: the reading report for January. (February‘s report is in the works: I have it entered into Excel and I just need to transfer it into Word, edit the layout and write the preface. It will either take a couple of days or a couple of months).

I finished 26 books in January, although admittedly a number of them were novellas. As I mentioned in my previous post, I delved into a new(ish) type of genre: gay (or M/M) romance. I found everything from genuinely sweet romance to hardcore BDSM, in sub-genres like fantasy, suspense and mystery and even a quartet of entertaining (and unlikely) rock star romances. Other books I read in January include the highly enjoyable memoir of cooking doyenne Julia Child, two straight romances, and Jennifer Worth‘s trilogy of memoirs about her experiences as a midwife in a London slum in the 1950s. I also watched the first season of the TV series based on these books and may (I say 'may') write something about this when I have finis…

Stiff – The curious lives of human cadavers

Originally published in November and December 2004, in 4 parts. Book 42 in my first 52 books challenge.

Author: Mary Roach
Year published: 2003
Pages: 303
Genre: Popular science, biology
Where got: amazon.co.uk

Mom, Dad, what happens after we die?

This is a classic question most parents dread having to answer. While this book doesn’t answer the philosophical/theological part of the question – what happens to the soul? - it does claim to contain answers to the biological part, namely: what happens to the body?



Reading progress for Stiff:
Stiff is proving to be an interesting read. Roach writes in a matter-of-fact journalistic style that makes the subject seem less grim than it really is, but she does on occasion become a bit too flippant about it, I guess in an attempt to distance herself. Although she uses humour to ease the grimness, the jokes – which, by the way, are never about the dead, only the living, especially Roach herself – often fall flat. Perhaps it’s just me, but this is a serio…