by Marion Nestle

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Nov 21 2014

Weekend reading: a fresh take on the soda industry

Bartow J. Elmore.  Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism.  Norton, 2015.

 

Elmore is an historian at the University of Alabama, whose book takes a fresh look at how soda companies managed to make fortunes selling cheap sugar water.   Advertising, he says, is only a minor factor in generating soda profits.

The real profits came from a business strategy that offloads the costs and risks onto suppliers, bottlers, and taxpayers.  Soda companies depend on taxpayers for the cost of city water supplies, the recycling discarded cans and bottles, the cleanup of containers that are not recycled, the transportation of sodas to the military,  and the health care of overweight consumers.

The public, he says, should be setting and collecting the price for use of public resources, rather than “accepting the bill for corporate waste.”

 

Nov 14 2014

Weekend reading: food history!

Paul Freedman, Joyce E. Chaplin, and Ken Albala.  Food in Time and Place: The American Historical Association Companion to Food History.  University of California Press, 2014.

I was happy to be asked to do a blurb for this one:

This book is a treasure.  Its clear and lively chapters on global food history instantly explain why food has become an essential entry point into the most intellectually challenging problems of our time.  Any reader interested in the role of food in history, culture, or politics, its production or consumption, or the teaching of critical thinking will find this book hard to put down. 

Oct 24 2014

Weekend reading: Congressman Tim Ryan’s Real Food Revolution

Congressman Tim Ryan.  The Real Food Revolution: Healthy Eating, Green Groceries, and the Return of the Family Farm.  Hay House, 2014.

Congressman Tim Ryan (Dem-Ohio) describes himself on his Website as

a relentless advocate for working families in Ohio’s 13th District. He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 and was sworn in on January 7, 2003. Successfully reelected five times, he is now serving in his sixth term…He is a champion of efforts to make college more affordable, revitalize America’s cities and improve the health and well-being of American families and children.

I did a blurb for his latest book and meant every word:

It’s wonderful that Congressman Tim Ryan cares about the way food affects the health of Americans.  I just wish more members of Congress cared about these issues too.

Oct 17 2014

This week’s book: Defending Beef

Nicolette Hahn Niman.  Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production.  Chelsea Green, 2014.

The subtitle says it all: “The Manifesto of an Environmental Lawyer and Vegetarian Turned Cattle Rancher.”

Really?

Really.  She’s not kidding.

I did a blurb for this one:

Issues related to the long-term health effects of red meat, saturated fat, sugar, and grains are complex and I see the jury as still out on many of them.  While waiting for the science to be resolved, Hahn Niman’s book is well worth reading for its forceful defense of the role of ruminant animals in sustainable food systems.

As this might suggest, I have a more cautious interpretation of the science she summarizes, but there are plenty of reasons why eating meat can help improve human nutrition, especially when the animals are raised as humanely and sustainably as possible, which the Nimans most definitely do on their beautiful Bolinas ranch.

Vegetarians: does she convince you?

Let the debates begin.

Oct 10 2014

At last! Amy Bentley’s “Inventing Baby Food”

Amy Bentley.  Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and the Transformation of the American Diet.  University of California Press, 2014.

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My esteemed colleague Amy Bentley, who came to NYU to so competently kick-start our programs in Food Studies, has produced her long-awaited study of the baby food industry.

My blurb for it ended up as part of the cover design:

Amy Bentley’s engaging, brilliantly researched book is a revelation.  Who knew that all those little baby food jars could tell us so much about the commercial, cultural , and personal history of food in America..  Inventing Baby Food is an instant food studies classic.

This doesn’t quite do justice to this book.  It’s wonderfully written, terrifically illustrated, and thoughtfully historical in how it grounds infant feeding practices in their past and present social context.

Here’s Amy on what this book is about:

Not all mothers feel as I do about feeding their children, and there are innumerable ways to be a nurturing parent that do not involve food.  Still, providing food is so closely connected to nurturing that even mothers who feel secure in their status but aren’t able, or don’t like, to prepare food probably feel a twinge of guilt over it.  As the following chapters demonstrate, the practice and advice changes over the years; the science becomes more refined and findings shift; and corporate capitalism continually explores and shapes the material culture of infant feeding, uncovering and instilling in parents previously unknown desires and needs.  Yet the connection among feeding nurturing, and being a “good mother” remains constant.

Enjoy!  I did.

Oct 7 2014

Start baking: In Search of the Perfect Loaf

Samuel Fromartz, In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey.  Viking, 2014.

 

Fromartz is a journalist, blogger (chewswise.com), and editor in chief of The Food and Environment Reporting Network.

I happily blurbed this one:

Fromartz is a passionate, deeply serious home baker who writes eloquently and gracefully about what it takes in skill and ingredients to produce a delicious baguette or country loaf.  His account of the history and comeback of heritage wheat grains is a revelation that will send even the most gluten-phobic reader to search for breads made from them.  Perfect Loaf is a lovely book–a perfect read for anyone who cares about good food.

Sep 26 2014

Weekend reading: Brian Wansink’s Slim by Design

Brian Wansink.  Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.  William Morrow, 2014.

In his new book, Wansink, the author of Mindless Eating (Amazon’s #1 Best Seller in Eating Disorders, Self-Help) and guru of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, promotes the idea that small changes in the food environment will encourage healthier eating.

Wansink, of course, is the behavioral economist who conducts clever and revealing experiments proving this point: the bottomless soup bowl (people eat and eat and eat), the Super Bowl study (students eat more from larger containers), the organic aura hypothesis (people perceive foods with health claims as having fewer calories), the stale popcorn study (if it’s there, people will eat it).

His studies are fun and I especially like his work because it shows how much environmental factors influence food choice.  If so, we need policies to change the environment to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Wansink, however, usually interprets his work as suggesting what you—as an individual—can do to counter the environmental forces: pay attention, use smaller plates, snack-proof your house.

He does that in this book too, but also has suggestions for actions that restaurants, supermarkets, and food makers can take to sell healthier foods and still make money.   If you are a fast-food restaurant, for example, you can:

Make it motivating

  • Start a Healthy Habits loyalty card—five punches and the sixth healthy item is free.
  • Give 5 percent off the healthier combo version: diet versus regular, baked versus fried.

He says:

Give away a sixth meal?  Give a 5 percent discount?  On a $5 meal that’s a 25-cent loss.  Think of it instead as a $4.75 gain, because diners could have easily otherwise gone somewhere else.  And it’s a $9.50 gain if they brought a friend.

Could this start a movement?

In an e-mail, Wansink writes:

My goal is for this book to ignite a Slim by Design Movement that transforms restaurants, grocery stores, workplaces, schools into healthier places that guide us to make smarter, healthier choices. The book tells people exactly what they can ask their favorite restaurant or grocery store to do, and the web site allows them to complete abbreviated scorecards and post them to Facebook and Twitter to show people there are simple, scalable, solutions that can make all of us Slim by Design.

Policy change, anyone?

Sep 15 2014

Book alert: Getting to Yum

Karen Le Billon.  Getting to Yum: The 7 Secrets of Raising Eager Eaters.  HarperCollins, 2014

I’m a big fan of Le Billon’s work (see comments on her previous book) and also blurbed this one, as you can tell from the cover.  Here’s the whole blurb:

What I love best about Getting to Yum is how it celebrates the fun and joy of parenting—even of picky eaters.   Following Le Billon’s advice and playing the games described in this book should make it a pleasure to teach kids about delicious food, encourage healthier eating habits, and counter the relentless marketing of junk food, without ever turning the dinner table into a battlefield.  Any parent eager to get kids to eat vegetables must read this instant classic right now. 

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