Books

Land of Milk and Honey by C Pam Zhang review – the politics of food

When climate disaster strikes and a rolling smog covers the earth, much of the world’s sustenance is lost

Land of Milk and Honey by C Pam Zhang

C Pam Zhang’s newest novel, Land of Milk and Honey, centres around the politics of food. When climate disaster strikes and a rolling smog covers the earth, much of the world’s sustenance is lost. But one chef who receives employment from a rich employer must impress his wealthy benefactors with the now-rare resources the wealthy research facility has cultivated atop a mountain above the toxic air. As the chef goes about her duties and her employer changes her role, she begins to wonder has she found a home in microcosmic utopia or is it in fact a green-washed prison?

Despite Zhang’s poignant rolling prose as her narrator aches for nourishment in all its messy forms beyond the immaculate quenelles or tweezer-curated plates that fill her day, there’s still something lacking. Land of Milk and Honey’s central chef may recoil from the bourgeoisie of her employer, but despite her disdain, her fellow staff members remain voiceless. The narrator is equally at odds with the rich investors she serves and the people that she shares a kitchen with. The voices of the many are the missing ingredient. 

Between the pages filled with exuberant displays of wealth and greed, which is viewed with the detached horror reserved for actions of the rich, there are some bursts of humanity. Hope is delivered with the ways that people adapt their foods, evolving their palates for survival’s sake. Like many climate-conscious novels, Land of Milk and Honey can see beyond the end of the world. But it fails to see beyond capitalism.

Land of Milk and Honey by C Pam Zhang

Land of Milk and Honey by C Pam Zhang is out on 28 September (Cornerstone, £16.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops. Billie Walker is a freelance journalist.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard review – the moral conundrums of coming of age
Books

The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard review – the moral conundrums of coming of age

From castle walls to Banksy: How graffiti has given us the writing on the wall throughout history
Graffiti

From castle walls to Banksy: How graffiti has given us the writing on the wall throughout history

Fragile Animals by Genevieve Jagger review – a captivating and original gothic novel
Books

Fragile Animals by Genevieve Jagger review – a captivating and original gothic novel

Top 5 queer love stories, chosen by Justin Myers aka The Guyliner
Queer love: Two men standing under a rainbow umbrella in front of a field
Books

Top 5 queer love stories, chosen by Justin Myers aka The Guyliner

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know