du bois et. alThe World of Soy, edited by Christine M. Du Bois, Chee-Beng Tan, and Sidney Mintz

It’s the happy season when we feast on all the high-calorie favorites we feel too guilty to eat to excess the rest of the year. Whether it’s the Xmas ham or the oil-filled Hanukkah latkes, the Harry & David truffles or the homemade sugar cookies with double frosting and sprinkles, we will soon rush to the banquet table to pile our plates so high passers-by will think we received a lumpy heirloom sculpture from Aunt Trudy.

Those of Asian extraction, or their fellow travelers who by tradition eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve, or hippies, have also long feasted with a yuletide soy. The miracle bean serves countless palettes. As tofu, soy substitutes for meat; as sauce, for heaven; as edamame, for M&Ms that trick children into eating healthy for three seconds; and as an additive, for who knows what. We know from old science fiction movies that soy reputedly feeds a sweaty, overpopulated future where Charlton Heston wears an ascot (until we learn soy is not the secret ingredient).

But where does this protein-packed legume come from? Why did it find its way into so many of our foods? How in the world did we almost wear soy-based silk instead of nylon?

The World of Soy goes inside the pod to tell the epic story.

The leading export crop of the United States and the world’s most traded crop, soy produced for human consumption is part of a global enterprise affecting the likes of farmers, economists, dieticians, and grocery shoppers. In The World of Soy, an international group of expert food specialists—including an agricultural economist, an agricultural sociologist, a former Peace Corps development expert, and numerous food anthropologists and agricultural historians—discusses important issues central to soy production and consumption: genetically engineered soybeans, increasing soybean cultivation, soyfood marketing techniques, the use of soybeans as an important soil restorative, and the rendering of soybeans for human consumption.

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