by Marion Nestle

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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. 

Aug 20 2014

Money in food

It’s a slow news week so I’m digging in to some items saved over the course of the year.

Here’s one from The Hartman Group, a market-research consulting firm: “Why [software] investors are pouring their lettuce into food.”

The article is about start-ups funded by software billionaires, but its point—there’s money to be made in food—reminds me of Fred Kaufman’s work on food commodity trading.

Making money from food is good when it keeps people employed and pays living wages.

It’s not so good when it adds to world hunger.

Aug 15 2014

Weekend reading: Globalization and Food Sovereignty

Peter Andrée, Jeffrey Ayres, Michael J. Bosia, and Marie-Josée Massicotte.  Globalization and Food Sovereignty: Global and Local Change in the New Politics of Food.  University of Toronto Press, 2014.

New Picture (1)

This is a book in a series on political economy and public policy, edited by political science professors in Canada and the United States with deep interests in food movements.  The chapters, by various authors, define food sovereignty as “a central issue that cuts across social, political, economic, cultural, and ecological domains.”  They deal with such matters as fair trade, local food, food security, and other food movements in places such as Cuba, Australia, France, and Brazil.

The editors say:

This volume posits that–given the incrasing attention to the politics of food as local, national, and global–it is important to incorporate these new areanas of political action much more widely into curriculums and scholarship and focus especially the framework and methodologies of political science on the profoundly political issues raised by the food sovereignty response…we seek to develop the study of food politics as a more engaged arena within the social sciences….

I say, yes!

 

 

Aug 8 2014

For your Food Studies library: Eating Asian America

Robert Ji-Song Ku, Martin F. Manalansan IV, Anita Mannur, editors.  Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader.   New York University Press, 2014.

This book was a most welcome gift from the author of one of its chapters, Nina Ichikawa (thanks, Nina).  Her chapter is about how Asian farmers and retailers became food system pioneers.

Others reflect on the Asian-American food experience from the perspective of, to give just a sample, Cambodian donut shops and taco trucks in Los Angeles, Chinese restaurant workers in New York, the incarcerated Japanese mess hall experience during the Second World War, the Filipino culinary diaspora, and the Asian Queer kitchen.

The chapters cover a century of Asian food work in America, necessarily getting into deep issues of culture and politics.

The book ought to stimulate plenty of conversation and argument—perfect for a course in food and culture.

Enjoy the weekend!

Aug 5 2014

Book: Culinary Imagination

Sandra M. Gilbert.  The Culinary Imagination: From Myth to Modernity.  WW Norton, 2014

New Picture

I blurbed this one:

It is hard to imagine how Sandra Gilbert could have produced so broad an overview of contemporary food writing and thought, not only literary analysis but also history, memoir, and bibliography.  Anyone wanting an introduction to the meaning of food culture should start here.  After reading this “foodoir,” you may not want to live her life but you will certainly want to read everything that she did.

Aug 1 2014

For your food studies library: Books that Cook

Jennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa A. Goldthwaite, eds.  Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal.  New York University Press, 2014.

I have a special interest in this book: I wrote its Foreword.  Here’s an excerpt:

Books that Cook brings the food revolution into the study of English literature— brilliantly, deftly, and with no apologies. No apologies are needed. As editors Jennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa A. Goldthwaite explain, Food Studies necessarily encompasses literature. Basic food texts—cookbooks and recipes—are as much a form of literature as are fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and poetry. And why not? They tell stories. They convey myths. They are replete with drama, symbolic meaning, and psychological insight.

Furthermore, they offer plenty to talk about: culture, religion, ethics, personal identity, and anything else that it means to be human. That food generates profound literary memories is famously known from what ensued after Proust dipped his madeleine in tea.  Writers of all time have used food memories to spark traditional literary texts. Today, we view cookbooks and recipes as equally worthy of literary analysis. Even recipes.

They used the end of the Foreword as a blurb:

Books that Cook propels the food movement and in doing so makes a political as well as a literary statement. It makes a difference. Read it. Savor the writings. Delight in them. Think about them. And if they inspire you to do your own writing about food, so much the better.

I also have a special interest in one of the editors, Jennifer Cognard-Black.  I’ve never met her, but I contacted her after reading an article she wrote for Ms Magazine.  The article, The Feminist Food Revolution, comes with this description:

From farms to community gardens to restaurants, women are taking food back into their own hands.  So why do men keep getting all the credit?

This last phrase got my attention, particularly because she mentions me in the article.  Interesting, no?

The Foreword was fun to write and the book is fun to read.

Thanks Jennifer, Melissa, and NYU Press for this contribution to food studies, published today, and most welcome.

Jul 21 2014

This week’s reading: The GMO Deception

Sheldon Krimsky and Jeremy Gruber, eds.  The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk.  Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

I did a blurb for this one:

GMO Deception brings together essays by specialists in a wide range of fields united in skepticism about the benefits of GMOs for reasons grounded in in biology, social science, politics, and ethics.  If you do not understand why there is so much opposition to GMOs, nationally and internationally, this book is the place to start.

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