(Sarah Elizabeth Murray)
Born in Dorset, England. Ethnicity: "British" Education: Edinburgh University, M.A.
Journalist and editor. South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, journalist; Vietnam Economic Times, Hanoi, senior production editor; Financial Times, London, England, journalist, 1990-2001, New York, NY, contributing feature writer, 2001—.
Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including the Observer, Independent, Times Higher Education Supplement, New Statesman, Economist Intelligence Unit, Economist, New York Times, Museum's Journal, Opera Now, American Demographics, and the Huffington Post Web site.
Journalist Sarah Murray has traveled around the world as a business and travel writer in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, and in doing so, has developed a fascination for international development and the evolution of the world food trade, the subject of her first book, Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat.
Murray's interest in global trade and transportation was sparked while launching a business magazine in Hanoi, when Murray traveled to northernmost Vietnam to the port city of Haiphong. There she watched cranes move shipping containers from ships to the dock. On the Moveable Feasts Web site, she writes: "The colours were spectacular, the disarray beguiling. My love affair with the world of cargo transport had begun." Several years later, Murray worked as a photographer for a West African shipping company. "The assignment took me down dirt roads following large trucks to pineapple plantations and rubber factories across Ghana, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire," states Murray. "A short flight in a two-seater Cessna over Abidjan harbour had been particularly thrilling. With the door removed and a harness preventing me from falling from the plane, I had leaned out over the wing to capture images of the giant cargo vessels docked below."
Murray provides a history of the movement of food over the centuries, linking transporting food to changes in taste, global economics, politics, and even art. According to Murray, without the refrigerated steamship, Central American countries might never have fallen under the pervasive influence of U.S. fruit companies, ultimately becoming "Banana Republics." She also notes that by flying food in to Berlin, Germany as part of the 1948 airlift, the allies were able to keep a city of more than two million residents alive for over a year, and to secure the first Cold War victory.
"Murray also addresses contemporary environmental concerns surrounding the global food system. She questions the current use of the distance food is transported as a measure of food's "carbon footprint," arguing that there are many other factors at issue, including the energy consumed by everything from harvesting and milking equipment, feedstock and fertilizer production, food processing and hothouse horticulture, to home cooking and shopping trips by car. Murray emphasizes that, in order to address the environmental impact of the global food supply, a better understanding of food's energy use throughout its lifecycle, from seed to kitchen.
Bill London reviewed the book for the Moscow Food Co-Op Web site in Moscow, Idaho. London noted how American demands regarding globalization have actually increased the abuse of children. Because of a proposed 1992 Senate bill that would prohibit the importation of goods made with child labor, Bangladesh fired its younger workers, many of whom had no way of surviving other than as child prostitutes. London also wrote that, in spite of the distances traveled by imported food, it is generally less expensive than locally grown food. This is a situation that may, in fact, change, depending upon future costs of oil for transportation. It is just one aspect of a system, the complexity of which is not always clearly determined, and that will probably not remain fixed. London concluded by writing: "The book is very readable and even fun. Murray has a great eye for the just-right detail, and does an excellent job in bringing this entire saga together. This is a great addition to the difficult discussion about ways to humanize and improve food shipment, if only because Murray reminds us how complex the relationships have become and how co-optive and resilient are the multinational food processors."
"Marvelling at the logistics of the Berlin airlift or the delivery of tiffin boxes to offices in Mumbai, Murray takes a while to address the moral and environmental impact of mass food transportation," wrote Kate Colquhoun for the London Telegraph Online. "The big-business conveyor belt—the barcodes and warehouses—might make you despair at the disturbed origins of much of the food we eat."
In reviewing Moveable Feasts for the London Times Online, Bee Wilson took a stand in favor of locally grown foods. "Olive oil and spices will always have to travel long distances, but it doesn't follow that chickens and eggs should. Murray has a tendency to overstate the drawbacks of local food, remarking that ‘not everyone can choose locally grown fruits and vegetables’ because they are ‘more expensive than what is available at the supermarket.’ Actually, several studies have shown that local fruit and veg markets can work out cheaper than plastic-wrapped supermarket produce," commented Wilson.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer described Moveable Feasts as an "erudite and thoroughly researched" book as well as "a fascinating read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bon Appetit, February, 2008, Elisa Huang, review of Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat, p. 40.
Guardian (London, England), May 26, 2007, Jo Littler, review of Moveable Feasts.
Independent, July 13, 2007, Christopher Hirst, review of Moveable Feasts.
National Business Review (Auckland, New Zealand), September 21, 2007, review of Moveable Feasts.
New Statesman, May 7, 2007, Henrietta Clancy, review of Moveable Feasts, p. 73.
Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2007, review of Moveable Feasts, p. 70.
Washington Times, January 27, 2008, Philip Kopper, review of Moveable Feasts.
Washington Post, November 18, 2007, Juliet Eilperin, review of Moveable Feasts.
Independent Weekly Online,http://www.indyweek.com/ (February 6, 2008), David Auerbach, review of Moveable Feasts.
Moscow Food Co-Op Web site,http://www.moscowfood.coop/ (February 9, 2008), Bill London, review of Moveable Feasts.
Moveable Feasts Web site, http://www.moveablefeasts.org (April 10, 2008).
Taste Web site,http://www.taste.com.au/ (May 17, 2007), Anthony Peet, review of Moveable Feasts.
Telegraph Online,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ (May 17, 2007), Kate Colquhoun, review of Moveable Feasts.
Times,http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/ (May 6, 2007), Bee Wilson, review of Moveable Feasts.