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Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  401 ratings  ·  41 reviews
The gargantuan effort needed to feed cities across the world on a daily basis has a massive and vastly underappreciated social and physical impact on both human populations and the planet. Yet few eaters are conscious of the processes that are required to bring food into a metropolis. This original and revolutionary study examines the way in which modern food production ha ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 5th 2008 by Random House UK
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Sean Goh
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, politics
5 stars for the sheer scope of this book, which covered the entire value chain of food, from the land it is grown on, how it gets to the city, how it gets distributed in the city, how it is prepared, and how it is disposed of (or wasted, as the case may be). Thought-provoking, to say the least.
Hammers home Maslow's Hierarchy pretty strongly. Without food, what use is everything else? Or in other words: 可以吃的吗?(Can it be eaten?)
Architecture as the embodiment of human dwelling in its fullest sen
Dan Prichard
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Genuinely has changed the way I think about food, and my relationship to it. Cook more, buy local, grow your own!
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
this is the coolest book! this is an incredible interdisciplinary work that combines everything i'm interested in learning about and working on, can't wait to read steel's follow-up essay! ...more
Pieter Post
May 13, 2020 rated it liked it
The book covers almost every aspect of the food chain, it's history and impact today. Found this very interesting and definitely taught me some things. However, it is not groundbreaking, has a strong focus on England and a bit of a lack of a clear point she wants to make. I think the book is more insightful for people that know less about the food sector ...more
Gil Lopez
Dec 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: foodie, urbanism
I really enjoyed this book, Steele took a lot of my interests and combined them in a very succinct and useful way. Being a landscape designer, dating an architect, living in New York City, as a member of Slow Food USA, and other foodie groups and a guerrilla gardener to boot. Before being introduced to this book, I found myself looking at all of the issues covered and wishing there was a cohesive narrative. I learned a lot from the book especially since it has written from a very strong British ...more
Saahil Parekh
Carolyn Steel's Hungry City is a book about how cities eat. As she introduces her agenda in writing Hungry City, the book is neither about the city nor about food, but about the relationship between the two.

This relationship between food and cities is something that I have not come across in any other book, and it is for me a subject that holds much fascination. How did we transition from the nomadic hunter-gatherer life to one of settling down, founding cities and sustaining ourselves on agricu
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Carolyn Steel is an architect with an interest in food. In her book she argues that food and its production and distribution is one of the most important influences in the world, and shows how it has affected our countryside, cities, and even homes. Full of great stories (how the Piggy Wiggy stores in the US created the idea of the self-service supermarket) and stats (in 1950 only 1 in 8 UK homes had a fridge), at times it’s very depressing (30 huge conglomerates control the bulk of the world’s ...more
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
The blurb is slightly misleading as the book is broader in scale than it suggests. I was most interested in the logistics and networks that bring food to us and wished the book addressed this in greater detail. There's a lot more history than I expected ...more
Jori Ann
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most informative and interesting books I’ve read in recent memory. I’ll never look at cities or food the same way. It’s very dense but worth the effort!
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bianca Anthony
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The most mindblowing thing I have ever read
Apr 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
There's nothing earth-shatteringly new in this book, it just combines mostly well-known facts in an interesting way. The subtitle is "How food shapes our lives" and Steel adresses food all the way from growing it to disposing of the results. The basic point is that our current methods of production and consumption are unsustainable for a multitude of reasons. It's polemical in places, and I found the last chapter on utopias a bit dull. But it had its good moments and interesting insights, especi ...more
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Our relationship to food in the modern world, particularly in the West, is one we take for granted. The products on offer in our supermarkets are mostly worthless: bad for us, not particularly tasty, and dull. Ms. Steel writes about this with great authority, covering everything from the history of the production and delivery of food in our large cities, to the remarkable waste of the 21st century. Despite the seriousness of her subject, she has very little of the strident tone of Naomi Klein, i ...more
Marc Buckley
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Carolyn Steel is a wonderful person and an amazing author who provides the accurate big history of food in the city and multiple ways food affects every part of our lives specifically how it has shaped up in cities. Her book Hungry City How Food Shapes our lives is provocative and vital to understanding the bigger picture of food in cities. My favorite quote from Carolyn that is so true, "To Cheapen Food is to Cheapen Life!"

To find our see my interview with Carolyn on my Video Podcat Please Subs
Rhona McAdam
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading for anyone interested in urban agriculture. Steele's TED talk brought her ideas to a deservedly wider attention. Her focus is London but her ideas touch us all. I recommend the book's website as well, for those who want to read or listen to podcast previews of the book's concepts, and learn more about Steele and her work through her blog and articles. ...more
Hanneke Mwk
Apr 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: sustainability, food
Written in an accesible style, the author takes you on a journey to where foods comes from behind the scenes. Very informative, although sometimes a bit long winded. The conclusion, if there is any, is not very well worked out. I thought the first few chapters were better than the later chapters on society and architecture. I felt the author's point was not as convincing as it was in the earlier chapters. ...more
Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very-detailed read on different aspects of food production and consumption, on architecture and how it interlinks with food, on how interior design of our kitchens in massive production disenables us to cook and what to do about it. Finally, why we need to cook, how our children benefit from learning about eating habits in the family and why on earth we need to go to the market! :)
Highly recommended.
Dec 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
The NYU library wants its copy of this book back tonight. Funny how the faster I take notes, the more snarkily critical I get...

However, I must give mad props to the author for the line "Never in the field of human consumption has so much been fed to so many by so few." (94) Here's planning to quote that sucka every chance I get!
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
It was an OK read....some interesting chapters on the history of restaurants and how kitchen designs have evolved. The bigger point for me was that food plays a very big part in our lives, but we don't treat it as such. It has the power to mold the fabric of our lives and communities and we treat it as an after thought. ...more
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
A really interesting history of food and how it has shaped our lives. Steel suggests several ways of moving forward, arguing that there is a need for a cultural shift in the way we value and consider food if we are to move toward a sustainable future. I would recommend Hungry City to anyone interested in issues of food security or simply food in general!
Doug Mckeever
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well researched look at the evolution of cities, problems with the food supply and just precisely how unsustainable our current ways of supporting the population are. I'm sure there was a lot I missed since I am not very familiar with London but nonetheless this is a great book to read if you are interested in how food systems affect urban design. ...more
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Despite a few faint moments when you suspect the author is liberally interpreting some findings in order to further her thesis - Hungry City was a thoroughly researched, deeply engaging, highly relevant, and incredibly educational discussion about food-eating and city-making. Both topics are well-served (see what I did there!), and anyone interested in either should read this book.
Nov 23, 2012 rated it liked it
A good but sometimes somewhat overlong read. Steel touches upon a lot of interesting subjects, but the relationship with urban planning is often somewhat blurred. The books conclusion is unspectacular, but it well written and certainly worth your time.
Superb! A must read for anyone concerned with food, food security and cities. Focuses very much on the UK but relevant to anyone from anywhere. It is an inspiring read.
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Very informative history of food and civilization and how they relate. I learned a lot and stayed interested through every page.
Aug 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful book that deserves a better review than I have time to write at the moment, but definitely worth the read.
Sep 27, 2011 added it
example-heavy, not overly concerned with theorizing
Brian Sullivan
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
A thoughtful book with an almost poetic feel that presents psychosocial and economic realities of eating on planet earth.
Nick Harris
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
An excellent, and well written book which romps through all aspects of food and cities, although the author is much stronger on architecture/planning, rather than ecology.
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