Last Chance to Eat:

Last Chance to Eat:

By Gina Mallet W.W. Norton & Co., Ltd, New York, 2004, $25.95 (hardcopy)

Mallet's topic is one anybody passionate about food and culinary matters can readily appreciate:Where the heck has good food gone!?

But rather than a polemical screed, Mallet's exposition is much more intelligent—and a lot more fun to read than your typical down-with-Mc-Donald's diatribe.

Mallet grew up in England during and after the Second World War and even through the privations of that era she remembers fondly the foods that were her family's staples: Jersey cream, garden-grown tomatoes, raw-milk brie, etc.

Those culinary experiences seeped out of her life when she moved to North America (she lives in Toronto) and experienced the increasing prevalence of mass-produced and processed food that is the general bill of fare in modern society.

To illustrate her thesis, Mallet focuses on five basic foods and how they've changed (for the worse, Mallet contends) over the years: the egg, cheese, beef, vegetables and fish. Each is a story of compromises made for seemingly sound reasons ( increase volume, lower cost, etc.), but also a story very much of loss.

In this era when there is a growing cultural awareness about " sustainable" agriculture and "farmtotable" supply lines, Mallet's volume is timely indeed.