'Land of Milk and Honey' depicts a future without the pleasure of food

side by side of a person and a book
In C Pam Zhang’s long-awaited second novel, "Land of Milk and Honey," a young Asian chef finds herself in cooking for the uber-rich on a mountaintop in Italy, one of the last places on Earth where crops still grow.
Courtesy photos

In C Pam Zhang’s dystopian not-too-distant future, the planet is covered in a crop-killing smog. Food as we know it is rapidly disappearing to be replaced by a gray, mung bean flour.

Zhang’s protagonist, a young unnamed Asian chef, decides to flee her dreary career and lies her way into becoming the head cook at a mountaintop research community, where the sky is still clear and the uber-rich work to recreate and hoard the world’s biodiversity.

The prose in “Land of Milk and Honey” is as rich and sensual as a good meal. But it is the constant trade-offs made by the chef that keep the book evolving.

This week, on Big Books and Bold Ideas, host Kerri Miller sat down with Zhang to talk about what moved her to write this book, how her faith background informs her view of science and why she moved from California to New York City during the pandemic.


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