Famine Food

Pierre Desrochers, one of the authors of the great book The Locavore's Dilemma, has a new article in Spiked on one of the latest food fads - a fad Desrochers says harkens back to foods our ancestors would have eaten during a famine.

He writes:

Yet one wonders what our remote ancestors would think of this culinary fad. . . . Although wild ingredients might be free, the attendant foraging and preparation costs are significant. What they would probably find most amazing, however, is that what they typically knew as ‘famine foods’ are now commanding a significant premium over plentiful and convenient things that actually taste good rather than ‘wild’.

Unfortunately, for many of our remote ancestors, the absence of effective transportation, such as railroads and container ships, meant that they had no choice but to survive on a local diet and, in the process, put all their agricultural eggs into one geographical basket. This was always a recipe for disaster.


As the ‘visionary’ haute cuisine of Redzepi and Patterson reminds us, wild foods typically display one or a combination of flaws when compared to cultivated ones, be it lower yields or nutritional value, less interesting taste or greater difficulty to harvest, store, process and preserve the produce.

He concludes:

The fact that food snobs now need to revert back to the famine foods of old should not be viewed as an indictment of our modern food production system, but rather as astounding proof that, today, that system feeds middle-class consumers better than most kings in history.