by Marion Nestle
Mar 22 2012

New books: cereals and bread

Marty Gitlin and Topher Ellis, The Great American Cereal Book, Abrams 2011.

I love cereal boxes, especially ones with egregious health claims, and I have a small collection dating back ten years or so.  I also, courtesy of Kellogg, have facsimiles of the complete set of Rice Krispies, All-Bran, and Froot Loops, dating back to the first year they were produced.   So I’m delighted to find this history of U.S. breakfast cereals, organized alphabetically by era starting in the 1860s, illustrated with pictures of each.  A encyclopedic nostalgia trip!

Aaron Bobrow-Strain, White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf, Beacon Press, 2012.

Bobrow-Strain organizes this books by dream categories: dreams of purity and contagion, control and abundance, health and discipline, strength and defense, peace and security, resistance and status.  White bread does all this?  Indeed it does in this story of how “white bread became white trash.”  He begins by asking, “Is this stuff even food?”  He ends with the whole wheat phenomenon and “yuppie bread.”  This is entertaining history and an example of food studies in action: using food to talk about important issues in history and contemporary society.


Aaron Bobrow-Strain, White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf, Beacon Press, 2012.



  • Thank you for the recommendations! I am really looking forward reading White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf, Beacon Press, 2012. In grade school, I so wanted to eat white bread (batter-whipped) and to be Little Miss Sunbeam. Mad Men Marketing to children! But I haven’t eaten white bread for 30+ years – excluding baguette and Italian 🙂

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  • brad

    I have lived a life of cereal monogamy, staying with one breakfast cereal for years before switching to another. Mention Wheatena (which in fact is just bulghur) and I’m in high school. Mention Buc-Wheats and I’m at university. Mention Nutri-Grain and I’m in my 30s. Nutri-Grain actually provided my first experience in consumer activism: I bought Nutri-Grain because it had the lowest added sugar of just about any commerical cold breakfast cereal, but then Kellog’s changed the recipe and made it sickly sweet. I stopped buying it, and decided to write to Kellog’s to tell them why. Apparently more than 10,000 other people wrote in to complain as well, and within two years Kellog’s had gone back to the old recipe and they sent me a coupon for two free boxes. It made a big impression on me.

  • brad

    And on the subject of white bread, here’s a gem of a description from the late Ted Hughes, poet laureate of England, that he wrote to his sister Olwyn on 22 August 1957 when he and Sylvia Plath were living in Northampton, Massachusetts: “What a place America is. Everything is in cellophane. Everything is 10,000 miles from where it was plucked or made. The bread is in cellophane that is covered with such slogans as de-crapularised, re-energised, multi-crammulated, bleached, double-bleached, rebrowned, unsanforrised, guaranteed no blasphemin. There is no such thing as bread. You cannot buy bread. And fifty processes that side of the wrappping these loaves saw the last molecule of their original wheat.”

  • grrljock

    Two books that sound very interesting indeed. I grew up outside of the US, so cereal was literally foreign to me. I remember going through a short phase of wanting to eat Corn Flakes for breakfast (I think the only cereal available in my country then). Now, I eat cereal only if there is no other breakfast food around, in contrast to my spouse’s family, to whom cereal is the default. I just don’t get its benefits as breakfast; I eat cereal, and 15 minutes later I’m hungry again.

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