by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Books

Oct 2 2013

While the government is shut down, have some fun. Read (not eat) “Candy”

Samira Kawash.  Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure.  Faber & Faber, 2013.

New Picture

In this delightful, intriguing account of candy in the United States, Samira Kawash argues that we must stop vilifying this sugary treat and start taking it more seriously—as a cultural icon, a marker of gender identity, a prototype of the marketing of processed foods, a source of pleasure for children and adults, and for good or ill, a contributor to daily diets.

Candy, she correctly points out, is not all that different from many other sugar-laden foods and deserves its rightful place in American diets—in moderation, of course.

Kawash, who writes the candy professor blog, wanted to call this book “In Defense of Candy,” which is what it is.  I loved her writing, her originality, and her sense of humor.  For example, she makes the connection between views of  “sweet, trivial people (women and children) and sweet, trivial candy” and observes that “So much of what we call food today is really candy.”

And so it is.

Sep 24 2013

Out today: the American edition of The Stop

Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis.  The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement.  Melville House, 2013.

This book is now available in the U.S.

Husband and wife team Saul and Curtis wrote this chronicle of Saul’s 15-year stint as the director of The Stop, a place that started out as a soup kitchen but ended up as much more.

This is an important book.  The Stop is no ordinary report on how soup kitchens convey substantial benefits to servers as well as the served.

As I said in my blurb for it:

An impassioned account of how to create food systems that foster independence and eliminate the indignities of charity.   Saul and Curtis put a human face on poverty.  If you want to know what today’s food movement is really about—and why it is anything but elitist—read this book.

I also used it in class last semester, where it stimulated much discussion and debate.  It ought to be available at bookstores everywhere.  Don’t miss this one.

Sep 18 2013

New books on food: San Francisco

Erica Peters.  San Francisco: A Food Biography.  Rowman & Littlefield, 2013.

For anyone curious about how San Francisco’s foods and restaurants became world-recognized icons of American regional cuisine, this book is a welcome starting place.

It’s one of a collection of books in the AltaMira Studies in Food and Gastronomy, edited by the prolific Ken Albala.  Readers may argue about Peters’ choice of topics to discuss—she left out some of my favorites—but the book is a great way to begin to delve into the city’s food history.  It’s well referenced and is wonderfully illustrated with photographs from historical collections (but alas, most of them are undated).

Sep 6 2013

It’s back-to-school time: food studies

Want to teach a course in food studies?  Start by joining the Association for the Study of Food and Society or talking to people in food studies programs.  Members have access to posted syllabus materials for a wide range of food studies courses.

In the meantime, here’s a place to start:

Amy Guptill, Denise A. Copelton, and Betsy Lucal.  Food & Society: Principles and Paradoxes.  Polity Press, 2013.

This is an introductory book aimed at undergraduates.  It begins with: Welcome to the study of food!

I blurbed it.

Far ranging in scope and hitting on the essential issues most likely to interest students, this book gives readers plenty to think about.  It’s well written, clear, has a point of view (sociology matters!), and thoroughly integrates social science concepts with the meaning of food in people’s lives.  An excellent introduction to courses in foods studies, food and society, and food and culture.

Sep 5 2013

If you like books with food maps, try these

Darin Jensen and Molly Roy, eds.  Food: An Atlas.  Guerrilla Cartography, 2013.

This is fun.  It’s a book of big maps on food production, distribution, security, exploration, and identity, mostly American but some international.  Take a look at such maps as those for rooftop farming in New York City, global imbalance of food availability, the rise of British food banks, and Taco trucks of East Oakland.

It reminds me a lot of:

Erik Millstone and Tim Lang.  The Atlas of Food: Who Eats What, Where and Why.  Earthscan, 2003.

This one is British and more overtly political.  Its maps cover such things as over- and under-nutrition, food aid as power, genetic modification, trade flows, advertising, and “Citizens Bite Back.”

Aug 30 2013

The Upanishads and other thanks for food

I love collections on obscure (and sometimes not so obscure) food themes.  This book collects prayers, incantations, and thanks for food from may cultures.

Adrian Butash.  Bless This Food: Ancient and Contemporary Graces from Around the World.  New World Library, 2013.

BlessFood_pbk_cvr.indd

In addition to the expected Christian prayers giving thanks for what is about to be consumed, the book has others, like this one from the Upanishads:

I am food, I am food, I am food.

I am the food-eater, I am the food-eater, I am the food eater.

I am the combining agent, I am the combining agent, I am the combining agent.

…I, who am food, eat the eater of food.  I have overcome the world.  I am brilliant like the sun.

A thought for the start of the weekend.  Enjoy!

Aug 19 2013

Books about food industry work: first-hand

Seth Holmes.  Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. .  University of California Press, 2013.

This book came highly recommended and for good reason.  It is a riveting account by a PhD (anthropology)/MD, now on the faculty of the School of Public Health in Berkeley, who did his dissertation fieldwork as a participant/observer/migrant berry picker.  This meant starting out in Oaxaca, traveling to the U.S. border, crossing it illegally, getting caught, going to jail, getting out, working in the fields with fellow migrants who made it through, and enduring almost everything they had to endure.  The almost?  As an American citizen and white, he was treated better—a difference he makes stark and clear.  For anyone with a conscience, this book is not an easy read; we don’t treat Mexican immigrant workers with much respect and Holmes writes eloquently about how that disrespect feels to people who are making enormous sacrifices to create better lives for their children. What must be done?  “Broad coalitions of people must actively engage in…concrete legal, political, civil, and economic actions…[so these people] no longer have to migrate across a deadly border in order to provide us with fresh fruit in exchange for their broken bodies.”

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies is just out but it reminded me of another participant/observer study that first appeared in 2005.

Steve Striffler.  Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America’s Favorite Food, Yale University Press, 2007.

I know about this book because I blurbed it:

An extraordinarily powerful indictment of the U.S. chicken industry.  This book will do for chicken what Fast Food Nation did for beef.

Striffler is an anthropologist now at the University of New Orleans who did his dissertation research working on poultry processing lines.  He lived with the other workers, went with them to their home towns, and experienced what they experienced.   Not easy.  He has much to say about the effect of this kind of work on the people who do it, the communities in which they live, and the impact of industrial animal farming on people, rural America, and the animals themselves.

This is anthropology at its best by courageous people.

Aug 16 2013

What’s that cartoon?

Oops.  Amazon left off the last question in Kerry Trueman’s interview.

KT: And what a bonus to get to the end of the book and find that wonderful cartoon of yourself by Clay Bennett! How did that come about?

I know.  I love it.   Minutes before the book was being sent to press, my editor realized that there were a couple of blank pages at the end.  And I didn’t have a bio in the book.  Why not commission a cartoon?  Clay Bennett is the only one of the cartoonists I’ve met—I went to a talk he gave in New York at the launch of another Cartoonist Group book—and I very much enjoy his work, as who does not?   He’s the editorial cartoonist for the Chattanooga Times Free Press and won a Pulitzer Prize at some point.  He produced the cartoon over that weekend.  I think it’s the perfect way to end the book.

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

 

 

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