As shoppers choose from an increasingly global cornucopia, this book makes compelling reading for anyone curious about the trips food has made from the farm to the fork
How many frequent flyer points have the strawberries in your bowl collected? Did that salmon in the freezer enjoy its trip to China and back? Whether it is French beans grown in Kenya or Cheddar cheese produced in New Mexico, what we eat has notched up thousands of miles before landing on our plates. How on earth did this happen?
In this quirky, fascinating and delightful book, author Sarah Murray has toured the globe in search of the stories behind food miles. Along the way, she has collected a series of astonishing facts and vivid accounts of Shanghai cafs serving English tea from Harrogate, American grain falling from a United Nations plane in Sudan and barbequed Memphis ribs flying FedEx to Wall Street traders. And such journeys date back millennia, from Roman olive oil to the Eastern spice trade.
From the first to the twenty-first centuries, the things we eat and drink have crossed countries and continents before reaching our tables. They have travelled inside everything from wooden barrels and nineteenth-century tea clippers to refrigerated shipping containers and jet planes travelling at 500 miles an hour. Moreover, they have left a trail of footprints behind them, stirring economic, social and political change in their wake.
Recent attention has focused on trails of a different sort ones made up of carbon dioxide propelling the concept of food miles to the forefront of climate change debates. Murray questions conventional wisdom, arguing that sheer distance travelled is an inaccurate measure of the carbon footprint what we eat, whose fossil fuel consumption is generated by everything from producing fertilisers to heating greenhouses and shopping trips by car.
Eating locally produced food certainly has benefits. But it may not always be the best way to cut carbon emissions, says Murray. And there are local farmers in countries like Kenya whose livelihoods depend on exports of fruit and vegetables to Europe.
In Moveable Feasts, Murray brings a realists viewpoint and historical perspective to a subject that has grabbed the headlines recently. She shows how the odysseys of food are the inevitable consequence of mans quest for sustenance and argues that globetrotting dinners were a reality long before the term food miles was coined.