Why do an issue about food? In the first place, food matters. At least for the moment, all of us need it to live. Food is complicated — from the technology we use to produce it, to the supply chains that bring it to our tables and its impact on our bodies. Food is interesting. It lets us tell stories about our families, cutting-edge science, and deeply held ethical principles.
Also, and more importantly, food makes people mad.
As the editors of a very new little magazine, of course, it’s in our interests to touch the occasional emotional third rail. (Our readers may be brilliant and discerning, but 5,000-word essays on social science methodology only get us so many clicks.) Everyone has opinions about food, because everybody eats. And almost everyone cares if the things we choose to put in our mouths are bad for us, or bad for the world, or make us look bad in front of our neighbors.
We’ll admit it: We like attention. But we also believe that when we’re mad — or horrified, or defensive, or maybe just hungry — it’s more important than ever to think clearly. The science of nutrition is hideously complicated, poorly understood, and frequently weaponized — but our health depends on getting it right. The Green Revolution is a strong contender for the most impactful event of the 20th century — but if you want to cause a fight in a roomful of development economists, just ask them how it went. We live in a world where billions of animals suffer horrifically at the hands of humans. We owe it to them to look at their experiences unflinchingly — and pragmatically. Do beef cattle have lives worth living? Is it possible — or desirable — to replace meat consumption altogether? How many mice are poisoned for every ton of wheat harvested in North America? We don’t know, and we’d like to find out.
In this issue, we’ve tried to bring together a selection of pieces that shed more light than heat on these important questions.
Our contributors have added up the indirect impacts of agriculture on wild animals, cut through the hype and cynicism around cultivated and plant-based meat, and learned how to make exploding-juice tofu. They’ve studied the ongoing impacts of the Green Revolution and tried to figure out how many people die because of misinformation about food and diets. They’ve asked why we still don’t know the health effects of alcohol, whether oysters have feelings, how it took so long to learn that diarrheal diseases could be cured with water, sugar, and salt, and what it would take to feed the world if nuclear fallout blocked out the sun. And, yes, there are a couple of 5,000-word essays on social science methodology, because we just can’t help ourselves.
Dig in. We hope you enjoy it.