Simran Sethi on Bread, Wine and Chocolate (and Beer and Coffee, Too!)

Apr 25, 2016

Environmental journalist, educator and author, Simran Sethi, says she has written a book about food, but it's really a book about love.  And make no mistake: she loves bread, wine, chocolate, beer and coffee--enough to travel to remote locations in six continents to learn about their origins. 

For example, if you want to find out about how the coffee crops are faring, you should go to the capital of coffee, Ethiopia.  Sethi did just that, spending hours making her way down one of the world's worst roads to get to a remote village where some of the finest coffee beans are grown.   And, you can stroll a short distance to the a forest where the plants grow in the wild.   With cacao, she made a similar challenging journey to Ecuador, tasting the bitter seeds that will eventually become the world's finest chocolate.

Sethi told IPR's Dennis Reese, "Pick one thing.  If craft beer is your thing, then figure out where that beer came from.  Flip over a package in the grocery store.  Pick out something you've never seen before at a farmer's market.  Be curious."

In her new book "Bread, Wine, Chocolate: the Slow Loss of the Foods We Love," (HarperOne), Sethi is not only telling us to slow down and appreciate the flavors in our food and drink, but also be aware of the the threat of the loss of agricultural biodiversity.   We're using just a few varieties of grapes to produce all of our wine, just one type of cacao plant is used to make most of the world's chocolate,  and we've even greatly reduced the number of coffee species that we harvest.   In fact, she says, we only cultivate about 150 of the 30,000 edible plant species.  This makes the world's food supply vulnerable to diseases that can spread quickly and wipe out our "global standard diet."  That's why she says, don't forget, "seeds are our legacy."