Ruth Reichl, former editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine and restaurant critic at both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, says we have a food crisis. But it’s not the crisis that most people are aware of. The specter of overpopulation has convinced many that the only way to feed large, undernourished populations is by growing more food — a lot more food. But that view ignores the fact that, for example, 70 percent of all apples grown in Mexico last year were thrown out, completely wasted. She explores other myths such as the belief that factory farms are more efficient that small, family-run farms. Finally she presents a new approach to solving our global food crisis. Reichl is the author of My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, which came out in September 2015.
Ruth Reichl: Cooking in America was on its way to becoming a lost art. And one of the things that’s happening is it’s being recaptured, which I think is really healthy. I mean if we don’t learn to cook again, we are, I think, doomed. We’re doomed to giving over our entire food culture to industrial food, which will be a terrible thing. We’re in a very strange place right now in America, I think. You know on the one hand you have a huge movement of people who care about sustainability and want food that is pesticide-free and has not been — not transgenic, has not been interfered with in any way. You know food that has been picked by angels. And on the other hand, you have an industrial food system that is increasingly powerful and is manipulating foods in ways that they’ve never been manipulated before. And I think one of the things that we really have to do is bring these two food systems together, just move them into one place so you don’t have rich people eating gorgeous, pristine vegetables and, you know, animals who have had happy lives. Whereas the people who were picking that food are people who are relegated to eating stuff that is barely food and is cheaper than food.
I just got back from Mexico and I was in the wholesale food market there, which is the largest wholesale food market in the world. It’s enormous. And one of the chefs I was talking to stopped by the apples and he said last year 70 percent of all the apples grown in Mexico went to waste. That and if you think about the magnitude of that problem and you think about everything that went into those apples and went into getting those apples to the market. And then the idea that they ultimately all got thrown out. We’re beginning to see what an enormous problem this is. You know we have had this stick held over our heads, you know. The world population is getting bigger and bigger and we need transgenic food. It’s the only way we’re going to feed the world. And, in fact, we know that the most efficient farms are, in fact, family farms, not monocropping. And that our big problems are distribution waste. We don’t need to be producing more and more food. We need to be figuring out how to distribute it more fairly.