You pay little attention to the systems of your body — circulatory, digestive, pulmonary — unless something goes wrong. These automatic systems ordinarily go about their business, like unseen clockwork, while you think about a vexing problem at work, drink your morning cup of coffee, walk up and down stairs, and head out to your… Continue reading The Black Death Undermined Feudalism. What Does COVID-19 Mean for Capitalism?
One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic. The quote comes from Stalin. The policy comes from Donald Trump. Trump famously changed his policy on Syria after seeing photographs of a couple Syrian children killed by a chemical attack. It didn’t matter that the Syrian government had already killed thousands of children.… Continue reading The Hunger President
In many ways the human race hit the skids when we stopped throwing spears and gathering berries. Once we started planting seeds and harvesting the produce, we grew shorter, fatter, sicker, and considerably more overworked. An alien visiting from another planet during that critical transition period to a more settled existence might easily have thought… Continue reading Menu for a Hot Planet
Ten years ago I visited Slovenia to do a report on organic farming for the Bay Area-based organization Food First. I was drawn to the former Yugoslav republic because it had recently joined with several neighboring Italian and Austrian provinces to create the world’s first organic bioregion – the Alpe-Adria. Organic farming made a lot… Continue reading Going Organic
The GDR Museum in Berlin is actually two museums in one. And these two parts, both devoted to everyday life in the German Democratic Republic, subtly contradict one another. That might not have been the intention of the museum founders. But this tension actually captures the ambiguities of East Germany and the ambivalence that many… Continue reading Eating History
I’m standing with a social worker beneath the palm trees outside a municipal building in the main city of Jeju Island. We’re talking about a nearby naval base, which the South Korean government is trying to build and a number of islanders are trying to prevent. She’s repeating a familiar refrain about Jeju — that it’s… Continue reading Jeju Island: Paradise with a Dark Side
Washington Post, September 2, 2011 When I was in my early 20s, on break from university in England, I spent a whole month in Budapest because I’d read in a guidebook that there are three great world cuisines: French, Chinese . . . and Hungarian. The author of the book was Hungarian, and I was naive. But still,… Continue reading Smart Mouth: Extending the range of a food lover, and a marriage