top of page

2.1 SOIL

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

All food and drink starts with soil. It is where seeds are sown, its health dictates the quality of the food we grow and the rivers and streams that absorb its minerals through riverbeds. Soil can also be understood as a sense of place: where we set down our roots. Soil, or land more generally, is also linked to ownership, and access to ownership has a huge impact on farming practices and the overall equitability and sustainability of our culinary systems.

This season we will be looking at the many ways soil impacts our culinary systems, politically, commercially and culturally. Below we have listed a number of reading and listening materials that ave shaped our approach to this season. This list will be updated monthly, subscribe to our newsletter to receive these updates in your inbox!


We have suggested a mixture of entire books, but also short excerpts and chapters so that book sharing is easier. Do let us know if you aren't able to access any of the excerpts and we can help source them for you.

Anzaldúa is a Chicana essayist, poet, academic and activist. Her work explores the idea of border, but also is anchored in the idea of space and roots, as opposed to a look pathways or migration flow; she explores "a cultural terrain that we inhabit, and that inhabits all of us" the blurb explains. I [Anna] have found her work important in understanding the concepts of belonging and I think this would be helpful in developing questions and thoughts on how culinary systems are part of this process as well as how ingredients get anchored to a place. Or course, borders are a part of the conversation of sourcing, what can and can't cross borders.

Earth Honoring: Western desires and indigenous knowledges, by Jane M. Jacobs

Reading up on postcolonial feminist theory is a good way to learn to decolonise your thinking. Food is so driven by the Global South feeding the Global North, and desire is a big part of that. One of the questions we want to think about this season is land ownership, which is a key issue when discussing indigenous rights and the topic of food.

Okra, Diversity and Climate Change, from The Whole Okra by Chris Smith

Part of chapter 2: Okra, The People's Vegetable, this section discusses growing hybrds and monoculture and addresses the topic of large-scale agriculture.

Production, from Sweetness and Power by Sidney W. Mintz

This chapter tracks the production of sugar. As the book title suggests, every part of this book unpicks the layers of power within this ingredients - remembering it comes from a crop is vital to understanding sugar.

The Edible Earth, from Food a history by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

This chapter looks at the relationship with plants, from foraging to creating agriculture. This is tracked through various cultures' relationship with food.

Celeriac Rösti with caper & celery salsa by Yotam Ottolenghi, from The Food Almanac ed. Miranda York

"January is the best time to eat veg that has been hiding away under the surface over winter, protecting itself from the elements." A recipe of a root veg. This book allows you follow ingredients seasonally, with recipes and stories.

Inherently wasteful: the hypocrisy of sustainability in restaurants, from Fäviken: 4015 days, beginning to end by Magnus Nilsson

Part of the conversation of Soil is about the locale, the environment, the climate that food grows... which, to extension is about climate change and the idea of sustainability. So it is important to tackle what and how that plays on at the business, consumer end - the restaurant.

Southwest Asia and the Ancient Origins of Cheese, from Cheese and Culture: a history of cheese and its place in Western civilization by Paul S. Kindstedt

How did we get to a point of planting, agriculture and cattle management? When did we make the soil work for us? Through the lens of cheese, Kindstedt explores these questions.

Home Going by Yaa Gyasi

This novel could also be in our next season, Water as it involves crossing vast oceans, but it tells a story of finding roots, a story about place and space and the soil that gets worked. Although fiction, these stories are real and are a part of food and drink as speaking specifically about ingredients.

Wood Wide Webs, chapter from Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake

This book looks at fungi and how they can change our future. This particular chapter looks at the interconnectivity of plants, through root systems and the networks they create and how the communicate and support each other.

This article from the Food and Drug Law Journal, looks at the history of organic food certification in the US and outlines how this process can make it difficult for small farms to gain certification from the government. Though US in focus, it brings to question the way we understand what ‘organic’ certification


This 4-part series traces global trade history from the Silk Road. It reveals how commercial trade shapes cuisine, agriculture through the desires of the market. Part one is currently live with the subsequent 3 parts to follow weekly

Creating roots in new places is very much a way we want to think about soil. Sheila Dillon explores the remarkable stories of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK, creating new lives and careers through food.

This two-part episode follows the story of PichaEats in Malaysia, a social enterprise that works with refugees to help them build home and livelihoods through food.

This week, we're exploring the built environments around us by investigating the tensions between city-planning and the organic, unplanned life of their inhabitants.

This episode delves into the cost of fertilizer production and questions our reliance on commercial fertilizer when it comes to global food production.

119 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All


bottom of page