Green background, yellow-rimmed red letters, and a fist wrapped combatively around a fork

The annual farm bill, in one way or another, governs the most important thing a government could control: the health of its people. It controls matters all the way from the crop (via subsidies, conservation incentives, etc.) to the plate (the school lunch program and food stamps). So it impacts, directly or indirectly, the health of our waterways, soil erosion, and childhood obesity.

Unfortunately, the book is written in such a leaden fashion, while trying so hard not to be leaden, that your attention would best be directed elsewhere. As I read it, I kept thinking of how much better — how much more visceral — [book: The Third Plate] was. It’s hard to tell what [book: Food Fight] wants to be: it’s got the page layout of something that wants to be a coffee-table book, but the language of academics who’ve been reluctantly drafted into writing for newspapers.

There are many other books in this same field, if not ones that focus so specifically on the farm bill. The place to start, as I will never tire of telling people, is either Pollan’s [book: Omnivore’s Dilemma] or Nestle’s [book: Food Politics]. And when you finish with [book: Food Politics] and find yourself depressed that lobbyists have captured the USDA and FDA, move on to Nestle’s [book: What To Eat], which walks with you down the grocery aisle and helps you make decisions in the presence of this fallen world. Or read [book: The Third Plate] if you want a chef’s perspective on it — specifically the perspective of a chef who gets out in the world and buries his hands in the soil. Different angles on the same problem, all of them delightfully readable.

But I’d skip [book: Food Fight]. Either you don’t know the issues, in which case [book: Food Fight] is the last book that will help interest you in them; or you do know the issues, in which case it’s a particularly dreary recitation of facts that you’re already familiar with.