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Eating Promiscuously

Adventures in the Future of Food

List Price: $16.95

May 8, 2018 | Paperback | 6.0 x 9.0, 352 pages | ISBN 9781640090323
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“The need to reexamine assumptions about how we feed ourselves becomes ever more important. McWilliams does not shy from imagining radical solutions to these issues . . . Sure to be controversial.” —Booklist

The human practice of farming food has failed. There are 7,500 known varieties of domesticated apples; we regularly eat about five. Seventy-five percent of the world’s food derives from five animals and twelve plants. Factory farmed meat is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (about 14 percent, larger than transportation) and consumes 75 percent of the water in drought-prone regions such as the West. We are stuck in a rut of limited choices, and the vast majority of what we eat is detrimental to our health and the welfare of the planet. But what if we could eliminate agriculture as we know it? What if we could start over?

James McWilliams’s search for more expansive palate leads him to those who are actively exploring the fringes of what we can eat, a group of outliers seeking nutrition innovation outside the industrial food system. Here, we meet insect manufacturers, seaweed harvesters, road kill foragers, plant biologists, and oyster farmers who seek to open both our minds and our mouths—and to overturn our most basic assumptions about food, health, and ethics.

Eating Promiscuously generates hope for a more tasteful future—one in which we eat thousands of foods rather than dozens—with a new philosophy that could save both ourselves and our planet.

JAMES MCWILLIAMS is a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. He is the author of seven books, including The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals, Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, and A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America. His essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, New York Times, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Slate, Modern Farmer, The American Scholar, New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, The Millions, and Pacific Standard, where he is a contributing writer.


Praise for Eating Promiscuously: Adventures in the Future of Food

“The author’s overriding assumption is that it would be better for people, animals, and the environment if our diets were more diversified. Hundreds of plants and protein sources, he rightly notes, are overlooked in favor of a narrow range of food . . . McWilliams presents a solid argument.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The need to reexamine assumptions about how we feed ourselves becomes ever more important. McWilliams does not shy from imagining radical solutions to these issues . . . Sure to be controversial.” —Booklist

Praise for Just Food

“McWilliams has guts. Some of the changes he champions will draw fire from all quarters…but he also presents ideas that may appeal to both the greenerati and capitalistas…. McWilliams forgoes sloganeering in favor of measured logic, but he doesn’t downplay the notion that a worldwide food crisis is imminent and that we had better fix things. Soon.” —Mike Shea, Texas Monthly

“McWilliams presents some appealing alternatives to the views of both the agrarian romantics on the left and the agribusiness capitalists on the right. The author advocates a judicious use of genetically engineered seeds and food products, believes we must reduce our passion for land-animal protein…and urges more attention to the nascent science of aquaponics… He concludes that the best food-production model may be ‘a broad pattern of regionally integrated, technologically advanced, middle-sized farms.’ Rich in research, provocative in conception and nettlesome to both the right and the left.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Enlightening… James E. McWilliams is stirring up trouble, the kind that gets noticed-and the kind that makes us all scratch our heads and think harder… Just Food ultimately offers a brave, solid argument that anyone who cares about their food-and everyone should care about their food-should consider.” —Meridith Ford Goldman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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