Why You Can’t Cook Like Your Grandmother

I don’t write much about the politics of food, but this issue really shows why it’s so hard for people to cook the way their grandparents did.

In the past century, world agriculture has lost 75% of its genetic diversity to globalization, standardization and monoculture farming; 95% of the tomato varieties that existed in 1909 have become extinct; 91% of corn — gone. In addition, 95% of the cabbage varieties your great-great grandma grew have been consigned to oblivion.

Regardless of whether you think food activists are tree-hugging hippies or the last line of defense against corporate America, this is something that should make you stop and think. For all the talk of the diversity of the American diet — we’ve got fruits and vegetables in the typical supermarket year-round that our grandparents never saw — we typically have only two or three varieties of each one, if we’re lucky.

Crop diversity protects us against disasters, natural and man-made. It is less destructive of farmland than monoculture farming. And, even if you think those issues will never affect you, diversity means more variety. So you get to eat the food you like the best, not just the one variety with the best shelf life.

Go read the whole article about how a few large companies are stamping out diversity in the name of profits. Then think about whether you might want to go to your local farmers market and check out the heirloom tomatoes.