Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal

The story of humankind is usually told as one of technological innovation and economic influence—of arrowheads and atomic bombs, settlers and stock markets. But behind it all, there is an even more fundamental driver: food.

In Animal, Vegetable, Junk, our friend and trusted food authority Mark Bittman offers a panoramic view of how the frenzy for food has driven human history to some of its most catastrophic moments, from slavery and colonialism to famine and genocide—and to our current moment, wherein Big Food exacerbates climate change, plunders our planet, and sickens its people. Even still, Bittman refuses to concede that the battle is lost, pointing to activists, workers, and governments around the world who are choosing well-being over corporate greed and gluttony, and fighting to free society from Big Food’s grip.

Sweeping, impassioned, and ultimately full of hope, Animal, Vegetable, Junk reveals not only how food has shaped our past, but also how we can transform it to reclaim our future.

Praise for Animal, Vegetable, Junk

“This is the perfect book for this moment in time, and Mark is the perfect person to write it”

—Alice Waters, chef, activist, and author

“Epic and engrossing…a clear and compelling compendium of modern agriculture….[Bittman] has earned the right to damn the evident flaws of our system.”

—The New York Times Book Review

“Compelling and ambitious, Bittman’s Animal, Vegetable, Junk is the authoritative text on the 1.8 million year history of the food system. We begin our journey with the first taming of fire to hunt and cook, witness the use of fire in indigenous swidden agriculture to prepare the ground, and finally arrive at the fanning of revolutionary fire of peasant farmers organizing against multinational agribusiness. Bittman leaves no stone unturned in the quest to understand how Big Food expropriated our land, water, and sustenance. Everyone who eats needs to read this book. The future of our species and our planet depends on it.”

—Leah Penniman, founding co-director of Soul Fire Farm and author of Farming While Black

“It’s easy to be jealous of Mark Bittman. He knows how to cook everything, and he writes so clearly that you’ll feel you can too. Now, he brings his prodigious talents to a history of how we eat. Once again, he has trimmed the fat and delivered it all. From the origins of the human diet to the World Trade Organization, you’ll find how they’re all connected in a broken food system. And his analysis is so compelling, you’ll not only understand what’s wrong, but also how to start to make it better.”

—Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved

About the Author

Mark Bittman is the author of more than thirty books, including the How to Cook Everything series and the #1 New York Times bestseller VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good. He was a food columnist, opinion columnist, and the lead magazine food writer at the New York Times, where he started writing in 1984 and remained for more than thirty years. Bittman has starred in four television series, including Showtime’s Emmy-winning Years of Living Dangerously. He is a longtime Today regular and has made hundreds of television, radio, and podcast appearances, including on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Real Time with Bill Maher, and CBS’s The Dish; and on NPR’s All Things Considered, Fresh Air, and Morning Edition. Bittman has written for countless publications and spoken at dozens of universities and conferences; his 2007 TED talk “What’s wrong with what we eat?” has almost five million views. He was a distinguished fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and a fellow at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He has received six James Beard Awards, four IACP Awards, and numerous other honors. Bittman is currently special advisor on food policy at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, where he teaches and hosts a lecture series. He is also the editor in chief of Heated. His most recent book is his history of food and humanity, Animal, Vegetable, Junk.