WITHIN WEEKS, Columbia University Press brings out my new book, Meals Matter: A Radical Economics through Gastronomy. It’s a basic rethink of the human predicament from, perhaps for some people, a surprising direction. That unexpectedness is why food anthropologist David Sutton, for example, generously locates the book’s “potential to upend many orthodoxies”. Politics professor Janet Flammang speaks of succeeding “brilliantly in a radical project”.
“A book I wish I had written”, writes former chef and now academic economist, Professor Ted P. Schmidt. “Meals Matter is a passionate call to create a more convivial world,” according to professor of European history Bertram M. Gordon. More reactions to the book.
Until the early nineteenth century, political philosophy and economics answered fundamental questions about feeding one another. But with the rise of corporate capitalism, modern economics turned from the complexities of people’s sustenance in favor of the single-minded pursuit of money.
Meals Matter returns to economics’ roots in the distribution of food and the labour required. Following Brillat-Savarin, the book describes actual conviviality, while engaging with thinkers—including Epicurus, Enlightenment philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, and economic theorists from François Quesnay and Adam Smith until the disaster of neoliberalism. The book finds hope in the liberal economics naturally emerging from community gardens, street markets, restaurants, domestic communalism, and the prospective return of banquets.
That original work was inspired by living for a year in a former watermill down an ancient Roman road near Radda-in-Chianti in Italy, and then setting up a restaurant in another Tuscan town. The contrast with eating in my own country was so intriguing, important and revelatory that I’ve been doing gastronomy ever since. Here is a list of my books.
Gastronomy is the diner’s sense of the world, and Meals Matter, the blog, provides a focus, bringing together books, ideas, debates, news and observations.
Why do human beings cook? Who are our gastronomic heroes – that’s beyond Epicurus, Thomas Jefferson, Brillat-Savarin and M.F.K. Fisher? What’s the origin of the flat white? So many questions … while grateful for good food and company.
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