Frances Moore Lappé

By: Lynn Peril
February 10, 2013


Without FRANCES MOORE LAPPÉ (born 1944), there could be no Michael Pollan. When the 26-year-old Berkeley dropout’s Diet for a Small Planet was published in 1971, America had just begun its love affair with the Quarter Pounder, and moms brought home Count Chocula and Frankenberry from the supermarket. Organic foods and vegetarianism were for hippies, cultists, and what the New York Times called “Dr. Strangelove paranoids who read poison plots on the… labels of pancake mixes.” Lappé pointed out that the amount of grain and soybeans it took to produce one pound of beef (seven, in ’71; by Diet’s twentieth anniversary edition, it was up to sixteen) might be better used to feed hungry people the world over. And then there were the recipes, which used odd things like tofu, tempeh, and bulgur instead of meat. Even so, Diet for a Small Planet struck a chord with a public increasingly concerned about food additives, artificial sweeteners, and what were then referred to as “engineered” foodstuffs; to date, it has sold over three million copies. In later editions, Lappé would moderate both the suggestion that combining foods like rice and beans resulted in a “complete” protein (complementarity is much more complex) as well as her stance that American’s grain-fed beef diet directly contributed to starvation abroad. Still, Diet for a Small Planet was prescient in its arguments against industrial agriculture and for a plant-based diet.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Bertolt Brecht.

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Anti-Anti-Utopian (1934-43) and Blank (1944-53) Generations.