Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives

Check out this talk by Carolyn Steel, an architect, author and food urbanist, given a few months ago at the TEDGlobal Conference at Oxford. Steel talks about the ideas from her book, Hungry City, which follows food from its origins, to the table, to its not-so-final resting place in the sewer. In the process, she explores how this journey impacts daily life and the environment.

Here is an overview of the last chapter of her book, taken from her website,

Chapter Seven is about the future, and asks how we can use food as a tool for re-thinking cities and the way we live in them. The chapter’s title – sitopia – is a made-up word, from the Greek sitos, meaning food, and topos, place. So it means ‘food-place’, as opposed to utopia (‘good place’, or ‘no place’) a term used since Plato to describe an ideal – and therefore unattainable – community. Utopianism is the nearest thing we have to a cross-disciplinary tradition of thought about the problem of dwelling. The trouble is that it’s not a realistic approach, because it aims at perfection. That’s why I’m proposing sitopia as a practical alternative. The world is already shaped by food, so we may as well start using food to shape the world more positively.

Garden City

If you look back at urban history, you realise that the dilemmas we face today are nothing new. Their scale may be unprecedented, but people have been puzzling over the question of how to build equable, workable, sustainable communities for about as long as cities have existed. I believe food is the key to thinking about these issues – the obvious answer that has been staring at us all along, only it was too big to see.

Food is what connects us all to each other and to the natural world, which makes it an incredibly powerful medium for thinking and acting collaboratively. It encompasses all of life – not just what is necessary, but also what makes live worth living. I can’t think of a more powerful or positive global revolution than one in which we all learned to see the world through food, and I hope that reading Hungry City will help you start doing just that.

And here is a video of her talk from TED:

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:16 PM

    I love those TED talks - and this is a really cool one. It's a great concept to think about urban renewal in terms of food.


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