The descriptive ““conventions”” used on food labels are always evolving. Today, however, the changes are so complicated (partly driven by legislation requiring disclosures about environmental impacts, health issues, and geographical provenance) that these labels more often baffle buyers than enlighten them. In a light-handed manner, the article points to how sometimes reading label language can be like deciphering runes——and how if we are familiar with the technical terms, we can find a literal meaning, but still not see the implications. The article could be ten times longer because food labels vary according to cultures——but all food-exporting cultures now take advantage of our short attention-span when faced with these texts. The question is whether less is more——and if so, in this contest for our attention, what ““contestant”” is voted off.
Until now, the impact of the expected climate changes on food has been almost entirely about crop yields, and fantasies about how olives might flourish in Oklahoma. This piece takes a narrow focus, asking how the changes in rainfall patterns and temperatures will possibly affect what a tomato tastes like, or whether the ““beef”” that our children enjoy will be too different for us to enjoy. Many important changes will be to the flavors of fish (already most palates can taste a difference between wild shrimp and farmed) and those foods relying on fragile herbs and flavors like vanilla. If food scenarios become very bad, no one is going to die from the loss of genuine basmati rice, but it is important to anticipate what we will lose. And enjoy it while we can.