LAWRENCE — Stroll through an American supermarket, and you’re bound to think you see endless diversity in products from avocados to ziti. But look closer, argues writer Simran Sethi, and you will learn that 95 percent of the world’s calories come from 30 species, and the vast majority of foods are made up of wheat, corn, rice, palm oil and soybeans.
Sethi, author of "Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love," will visit the University of Kansas for a free public talk and book signing at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, at the Commons in Spooner Hall. The talk is sponsored by the KU Biodiversity Institute and the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
Limestone Pizza Bar Kitchen, 1900 Barker Bakery and Café, Goddard Farm and Hank Charcuterie will offer bite-size foods and coffee representative of the book’s themes at the event. Books will be available for sale by the Raven Book Store.
Sethi, formerly an associate professor in the KU School of Journalism, wrote "Bread, Wine, Chocolate" as part-memoir of a journey to six continents and part-investigation of the loss of biodiversity from soil to plate.
“The increasing dwindling or disappearance of the world’s biodiversity of animals and plants threatens the life support systems of the planet,” said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Biodiversity Institute. “In the same way, monoculture farming, climate change and an increasingly homogenized global diet reduce the diversity of foods we grow and are a threat to our food security. If only one variety of a food is grown, the food supply is vulnerable to being wiped out by pest species and disease.”
Sethi focuses not only on the loss of biodiversity in agriculture, but also savoring the flavors of food and imploring people to re-examine their relationship to foods they love – among them for Sethi are bread, wine and chocolate, but also beer, coffee and octopus.
Sethi is a journalist and educator focused on food, sustainability and social change. She is an associate at the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute in Australia, a contributor for Orion Magazine and a recent visiting scholar at the Cocoa Research Centre in St. Augustine, Trinidad.