The Secret Financial Life Of Food: From Commodities Markets To Supermarkets, Kara Newman, Columbia University Press, $26.95.
From haute cuisine to gastro-anthropologic travels to simple recipes, television programs and books alike have celebrated in the past few years the rise of food as a fundamental element of contemporary pop-culture. In these gastronomic journeys, food is depicted in all its forms and shapes, but the link highlighting its path from farm to table rarely gets a look in.
The Secret Financial Life of Food departs from this ‘food-porn’ paradigm to bring us back to the real world where food is treated as a commodity and traded in massive quantities of standardized quality. In the book, the Spirits Editor at Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Kara Newman, gives us a thoughtful and tightly packaged historical perspective on the evolution of commodity markets in the United States, from the early days of the republic onwards. In each chapter, she presents a different commodity – from pepper to corn, cocoa to soybeans – documenting in a clear and succinct way the fortunes (and misfortunes) of related trading.
Where the book promises somewhat more than it delivers, however, is in drawing a clear connection between commodity trading and culinary and grocery practices. Nevertheless, The Secret Financial Life of Food is a thoughtful, historically grounded and sharply writtern book opening a window on a theme that, despite its importance, is seldom discussed off the trading floor or outside specialized courses.