Originally published in 1971, Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé was an important book that was ahead of its time. A call to eat a more plant-centred diet, it was the first major book to critique our meat production system, calling it both wasteful and a contributor to the global food shortage. Lappé praises and encourages a vegetarian diet while identifying the major issues that arise within the current food production system.
Today we see an abundance of books and documentaries on our food production system. Vegetarian and vegan diets as well as organic and non genetically modified food movements are now common household knowledge. Diet for a Small Planet is the original food Bible and there is a reason why this book has endured for decades as a bestseller.
This book really puts into perspective the way our food system works, why hunger throughout the world isn't a product of a global food shortage, and the ways that big agricultural is hurting both our food and our resources. It is also fascinating to read it now in 2012 and take a look at what the issues were decades ago and the ways that they have both changed and stayed the same. Overweight and obesity rates have shot up since this book was written and you can see how they knew the issues were going to become worse.
There are many features to this book. In Book One, Lappé talks about her personal journey to writing the book, what the meat production system is like in the United States, reasons why people are going hungry when we aren't experiencing global food shortages, the necessity of protein in our diet and how to get an adequate amount without eating meat, and ways that everyday citizens can become involved in food activism.
In Book Two, Lappé discusses the vegetarian diet, giving tips for eating meatless meals as well as many meatless recipes and menus. I'll admit, a lot of the recipes didn't seem that appetizing, probably because these days we have such a wealth of vegetarian recipes and these ones were pretty basic. But I'm sure they were a big deal back when the book was originally published!
If you're not vegetarian this book is still an important read. It's important for us to know where our food comes from and how it is sourced. There is a fantastic amount of information in this book about healthy eating and readers will learn a lot about how to make good food choices at the supermarket as well as learning more about the way a few companies control the majority of those choices.
If you're interested in this topic and have been reading a lot about it, then you must read this book, consider it the original on the subject. And if you're not at all interested in the subject, pick this book up anyways. It's a good place to start and hopefully it will help you see the food on your plate in a different way.