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How We Eat – 4.0 stars


This book opened my eyes to the immense challenge of supplying food to the world

The Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteers read and discussed How We Eat: the Brave New World of Food and Drink by Paco Underhill at the January 2023 Book Club. A dozen Master Gardener volunteers read the book and shared their thoughts in small group discussion.

Reader Poll

  1. Enjoyable—4 out of 5 stars

  2. Educational— 3.5 out of 5 stars

  3. Recommended—4 out of 5 stars

Reader Comments

The readers shared their thoughts about this book:

  • Interesting and unusual view into the food industry

  • Easy read, interesting author

  • I enjoyed the book as it was a light read and fun.

  • I liked the variety of the topics that the author covered.

  • I think this book was a great introduction to the larger topic of our ever-changing food system and offers the opportunity to learn more.

  • It's an easy read with interesting stories.

  • I enjoyed the marketing part, especially for those not focused on the subject.

  • I liked how this was related to the work we do, but not completely focused on plants or gardening.

  • It's important for everyone to understand our food system and the pros and cons of what exists.

  • I really enjoyed learning more about the grocery industry in general—how people's shopping habits have been researched, etc.

  • Good book.

  • This book opened my eyes to the immense challenge of supplying food to the world.

  • I loved the parts about companies that are growing lettuces and other produce hydroponically on a large-scale basis, such as companies in MN.

Using this information

Inspired by the book, the readers discussed how the information could be put to use by Master Gardener volunteers in Ramsey County.

  • We could help people celebrate "Ugly" fruit and vegetables. We learned that eater shop with their eyes first. Grocery stores have aesthetic standards for each fruit and vegetable and the ones that don't meet those requirements are not set-out for sale because no one would buy them. Even though many of these are turned into frozen, canned and fresh-processed foods (like salsa) we can help educate the public and let them know that these are good to eat even if they don't look picture perfect.

  • We can work with schools to try hydroponic gardens. It's well-known that kids who grow vegetables are more likely to eat vegetables. There is a big push to introduce gardens at schools and get the kids involved. However, most gardens in MN hit their stride during the summer when there are no students around. This puts the burden of caring for them on the teachers, school staff, and volunteers. Hydroponics, though, can be grown year-round and indoors. This would create learning opportunities for students during the school year.

  • Change expectations about imperfect gardens. As gardeners move back to finding ways to support local wildlife –flora and fauna – there is an understanding that gardens without plant damage, like chewed leaves, isn't supporting anyone. A garden without bug damage is not doing any good. As Master Gardener volunteers, we can help home gardeners understand that gardens don't have to be perfect to be very good.

Find this book

You can find this book at the Ramsey County Library. There are physical copies of the book, ebook options & audiobook copies (via MELSA) available to readers in Ramsey County for free.

Next Book Club Discussion: In Winter's Kitchen

In March, the Master Gardener volunteers will be discussing In Winter's Kitchen by Beth Dooley.


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