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Two new books out on the same day, both looking at similar topics but from different angles, both well worth reading. I did blurbs for both.
Melanie Warner, Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal, Scribner, 2013.
Warner used to cover the food business beat for the New York Times. She knows what she’s talking about.
In Pandora’s Lunchbox, Melanie Warner has produced an engaging account of how today’s “food processing industrial complex” replaced real foods with the inventions of food science. Her history of how this happened and who benefits from these inventions should be enough to inspire everyone to get back into the kitchen and start cooking.
And here is Warner in the weekend’s Wall Street Journal on the liquification of chicken nuggets (white slime, anyone?).
Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Random House, 2013.
Salt Sugar Fat is a breathtaking feat of reporting. Michael Moss was able to get executives of the world’s largest food companies to admit that they have only one job—to maximize sales and profits—and to reveal how they deliberately entice customers by stuffing their products with salt, sugar, and fat. Anyone reading this truly important book will understand why food corporations cannot be trusted to value health over profits and why all of us need to recognize and resist food marketing every time we grocery shop or vote.
And here’s the Wall Street Journal’s review of both (which is what happens when books on the same topic are published on the same day).
Occasionally, a cookbook fits into the food politics genre, proving once again that food and cooking are entry points into the most important political issues of the day. Take a look at:
Laila El-Haddad & Maggie Schmitt. The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey. Just World Books, 2012.
We may know the Gaza strip as the contested territory along the southern edge of the eastern Mediterranean but, as Nancy Harmon Jenkins’s foreword to this book points out, “Gaza was an important station on the spice route…this patch of territory is…a living legacy of the refugees who flocked here, driven from their homes in the north and east.” Judging from this book, its food is pretty terrific and I can’t think of a more delicious entry point into the politics of the Middle East.
And for more information about the book, click here.
World Development Movement proudly announces that Barclays bank has agreed to stop speculation on food commodities. Betting on food drives up world food prices.
Until now, Barclays has been the leading UK bank involved in speculation on food including staples like wheat, maize and soy. The bank made up to an estimated £500 million from speculating on food in 2010 and 2011.
The effects of speculation on world hunger is the reason why Fred Kaufman wrote Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food (Wiley, 2012). As I noted in an earlier post, his book is a riveting account of how banks make money by treating food as a speculative widget, driving up prices, and adding global hunger.
Did Bet the Farm have anything to do with shaming Barclay’s into doing the right thing?
World Development Movement takes credit. Kaufman should too.
Philip Ackerman-Leist. Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems. Chelsea Green 2013.
Rebuilding the Foodshed introduces readers to local food systems in all their complexities. In moving from industrial to regional food systems, communities must consider an enormous range of factors, from geographic to socioeconomic. Difficult as doing this may be, this book makes it clear that the results are well worth the effort in their benefits to farmers and farm workers, as well as to eaters. This book is on the reading list for my food advocacy class at NYU this summer.
John Ayto. The Diner’s Dictionary: Word Origins of Food & Drink, 2nd ed. Oxford, 2012.
The is the second edition of a book first published in 1990, long before the food movement really got going. You won’t find an entry for locavore. It’s also British. You will find an entry for lobscouse: “from its name comes the term scouse ‘Liverpudlian’, which has come into wide use since the Second World War.” I happen to adore this sort of scholarly discussion and delighted to have this book, but it may be a bit of an acquired taste.
I’m also catching up on reading.
This just in:
Wenonah Hauter. Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America. The New Press, 2012.
Hauter heads up Food and Water Watch, a tough-minded advocacy group in Washington DC working to preserve and ensure a safe, accessible, and sustainable food supply. Foodpoly is her manifesto. She has a lot to say about the problems with food policy, food chains, the organic-industrial complex, the food safety system, factory farms, and corporate control of the food supply. She urges: “eat and act your politics.” I’m using it as required reading in my food advocacy course this spring at NYU.
And here are a couple of others I’ve been saving up:
Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, Basic Books, 2012.
I blurbed this one:
Consider the Fork is a terrific delve into the history and modern use of kitchen tools so familiar that we take them for granted and never give them a thought. Bee Wilson places kitchen gadgets in their rich cultural context. I, for one, will never think about spoons, measuring cupts, eggbeaters, or chopsticks in the same way again.
W.A. Bogart, Permit But Discourage: Regulating Excessive Consumption, Oxford University Press, 2011.
I blurbed this one too:
Permit But Discourage is an engagingly written examination of a hugely important question: How can laws best be used to protect individuals and societies against out-of-control consumption of such things as alcohol, junk foods, sodas, and other unhealthy indulgences, without doing more harm than good? The book clearly and compellingly argues for a mix of laws that permit consumption but discourage excesses, and for finding that mix through trial and error. This fascinating book is as must read for anyone who cares about promoting health as well as human rights in a market-driven economy.
Amanda Cohen and Ryan Dulavey. Dirt Candy: Flavor-Forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant, Clarkson Potter, 2012.
This is a charming, utterly delightful, graphic novel about Amanda Cohen’s poignant and often hilarious trials and tribulations in opening and promoting (Iron Chef!) her restaurant Dirt Candy. It’s hard to do justice to it without including illustrations but here’s a brief glimpse of the text:
But sometimes the problem isn’t the customer. Sometimes the problem is me. I was a good girl until I met my match in that plate of Roasted Cauliflower Pappardelle. They all tried to warn me…but I wasn’t listening! I was blind that winter because…I fell in love with the wrong dish.
It comes with recipes, right from the restaurant.
Book signing alert: Amanda will be signing books at the Union Square (New York) farmers’ market tomorrow, Saturday, at noon.
Andrea Curtis. What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World, Red Deer Press, 2012.
This is a short (40-page) picture book—drawings and photographs—to inspire anyone interested in school food to try some different foods for a change.
What kids eat for school lunch can also tell us a lot about the culture and history that make them and their country unique. After all, what better way to get to know people than to share a meal with them?…Kids are gardening, cooking, and speaking out about their right to eat healthy lunches. Their work is transforming schools and helping the planet too.
Andrew Weil and Sam Fox, with Michael Stebner. True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure. Little, Brown, 2012.
I blurbed this one:
Andrew Weil is a rare member of a special class of diet gurus: he appreciates good food. This shows in his philosophy of healthy eating—if meals are delicious, people will eat them. It also shows in every recipe in this book. Weil and his colleagues encourage adventurous eating and some of the ingredients may be unfamiliar, but even the simplest recipe—tomato and watermelon salad, for example—will make mouths water.
Allison Adato. Smart Chefs Stay Slim: Lessons in Eating and Living from America’s Best Chefs, New American Library, 2012.
I blurbed this one too:
Overeating may be an occupational hazard, but some chefs manage to maintain their weight. Smart Chefs reveals their successful strategies for eating what they love—in moderation, of course. Their “lessons” should work for anyone who adores food. Fun to read and packed with good advice.
Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic. Suffering Soccotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate, Perigee, 2012.
I’m not much of a picky eater, so I’m fascinated by people who are. Lucianovic tells an entertaining story of her life in pickiness. My favorite chapter: “The picky eater eats out.” This contains a section called “the picky eater’s guide to surviving a dinner party,” with some rather socially unacceptable suggestions about where to hide unwanted food. But she learned to cook and got over it (sort of). If pickiness makes you miserable, this might be just the cure.
Eleanor Boyle. High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat, New Society Publishers, 2012.
What’s wrong with livestock? What’s wrong with meat? In moderation, nothing—if you accept that humans have the moral right to use animals for food. Most people accept this—ad I do—as long as we treat animals respectfully and maintain some reverence for taking their lives….But is it possible, as the evidence increasingly suggests, that we’re making and eating too much for the good of the planet and our personal and community well-being?
This book addresses those questions and suggests strategies for ensuring that meat is produced in a sustainable, ecologically responsible manner and for developing policies that discourage factory farming and encouraging responsible and healthful meat-eating practices.
If I were teaching public health nutrition right now, here’s what I’d want students to read:
Geof Rayner and Tim Lang, Ecological Public Health: Reshaping the Conditions for Good Health, Routledge Earthscan, 2012.
Our case is that public health is an interdisciplinary project, and not merely the preserve of particular professionals or titles. Indeed, one of the themes of the book is that public health is often improved by movements and by people prepared to challenge conventional assumptions and the status quo…In these cynical academic times, when thinking is too often set within narrow economistic terms—What can we afford? What is the cost-benefit of health action?—and when the notion of the ‘public’ is often replaced by the ‘individual’ or the ‘private,’ this book offers an analysis of public health which is unashamedly pro bono publico, for the public good.
David Stuckler and Karen Siegel, eds. Sick Societies: Responding to the Global Challenge of Chronic Disease, Oxford University Press, 2011.
Sick Societies argues that we are building environments that are poorly designed for our boides: we create societies where tobacco, alcohol, and foods containing high levels of salt, sugar, and fats are the easiest, cheapest, and most desirable choices, while fruits, vegetables, and exercise are the most expensive, inaccessible, and inconvenient options. The rise in chronic diseases is the result of a model of societal development that is out of control: a model that puts wealth before health.
Wilma Waterlander, Put the Money Where the Mouth Is: The Feasibility and Effectiveness of Food Pricing Strategies to Stimulate Healthy Eating, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 2012.
This one is for policy wonks and change agents. This is Waterlander’s doctoral dissertation done as a published book but it is written clearly and forcefully. Her conclusions:
The studies presented in this thesis show that the healthy choice is the relatively expensive choice; that price fundamentally affects food choice and may even form a barrier for low SES consumers in selecting healthier foods. These findings make pricing strategies a justifiable tool to stimulate healthier choices…making healthier foods cheaper was found to be the most feasible pricing strategy to implement.