In this review, Paul Levy makes me want to read the new World of Soy, which it turns out I've been eating even when I had no intention of doing any such thing--in chicken, pork, and all the other animals inefficiently fed on it. I'm also eager to read just about anything written or edited by Sidney Mintz, author of Sweetness and Power, particularly a "brilliant" essay, as Levy calls it, "Fermented Beans and Western Taste", that is included in this omnibus volume, which Mintz co-edited with Christine M. Du Bois. And I'll start seeking out Korean restaurants in Boston that make fresh tofu, as was the rage in New York restaurants a few years ago.
Levy, who has been writing particularly provocative entries in his own blog on the Guardian website, calls attention to the lack of the scholarly arsenals that treating such a vast topic should have. He's been an instrumental part of the Oxford Symposium, the summer meeting that has been the international cradle of food studies; as his review points out, there's a lot more to be done:
Dealing with soy comprehensively requires the attentions of historians, nutritionists, sociologists, anthropologists, economists and specialists in agriculture, plant genetics - and cooks, for if we do not know how soy has been and can be used as human food, and why people would wish to eat it, we lack any fundamental knowledge of it.
I'll think about that the next time I order fresh tofu, though it will take other books to convince me to get it into the kitchen.