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4.0 out of 5 stars
An Adventure Through Food and Space, 25 Nov. 2013
Most people in richer countries these days live in cities, and over half of all people worldwide live in an urban area. This represents a fundamental shift in the way that people relate to the land, and to the food that they eat. In the past most people were responsible for growing their own food, now most people, living in cities, are dependent on other people for this.
Hungry City isn't very much about hunger, which as one of my main interests was why I had picked it up. So it was full of surprises, but I wasn't disappointed because most surprisingly, it was a lot of fun. The author, Carolyn Steel, is an architect as well as a writer, but she seems mostly to be interested in a broad and hard to define area called urbanism, which is like a mash-up of all of the subjects ever but with a focus on cities. I'm into urbanism as well, it's one of my main interests. You can see why I was drawn to this book.
Carolyn takes us on a wide-ranging journey through the homes and markets of the city and the surrounding areas that support it (warning: terrible pun ahead). Food for thought: have you considered that until we were able to transport food long distances without it spoiling, with planes or trains or refrigerated trucks, cities were basically forced to only grow as far as the land around could support them, or had to be by the sea and get their food from ships. Ships at the time were like spaceships to us, probably some of the most advanced technology in the world, going to places people could barely dream of visiting, and the most expensive things many people would come into contact with. I digress. So does Carolyn in this book. It's immensely enjoyable.
Hungry City touches on environmental matters quite openly and consistently. I found it really interesting to read about sustainability from the point of view of somebody who does not primarily put themselves forward as an environmentalist. Carolyn seems to like urban society and want it to be able to continue into the future. So sustainability in that sense is about wanting the city to be able to survive. Unfortunately for said city, reliance on oil-based food transport and heavily meat-based diets make its long term prospects fairly bleak if things carry on as they are.
There is more to this book than just that. At its heart Hungry City represents a rallying cry, challenging us to dream of a better kind of city, one that feeds itself responsibly. But on top of that, Carolyn wants us to think of a city with a better and much closer relationship with food, with urban farming and local markets, and a food culture that treasures craft and adventure.