by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Books

Nov 10 2017

Weekend reading: the Hamlet Fire

Bryant Simon The Hamlet Fire, A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives. The New Press.

Image result for the hamlet fire

This book, which deserves a much better cover, tells a compelling story.  Bryant Simon, a history professor at Temple University, has written an epic book about industrialized broiler production.  His starting point is the tragic fire that killed 25 people in a poultry processing plant in 1991, in Hamlet, North Carolina.

It’s inconceivable that this plant, which made cheap chicken fingers for fast food outlets, had locked exit doors—nearly a century after the Triangle Shirtwaist fire (which is still commemorated every March 25 in front of the building, now owned by NYU).

To explain the meaning of the fire, Simon takes on globalization’s effect in promoting industrialized chicken production; the loss of well paying jobs in small rural communities led to surplus labor that made it possible to produce cheap chicken and even cheaper chicken products.

Simon links these events to the increasing prevalence of obesity among overworked and underpaid laborers in rural communities.   His stories of workers in chicken processing plants make it clear how they have to deal with the social, racial, and political issues that confront families in rural America.

The costs of cheap food, Simon says eloquently, are borne by the workers and communities that produce it.

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Nov 8 2017

“Make November 8 Great Again”—Nathan Myhrvold

And how is the fabulous Nathan doing that?  By releasing Modernist Bread this week.

Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya.  Modernist Bread.  The Cooking Lab, 2017.

If you have a spare $600 or so, this 53-pound set of coffee-table books will make you happy.  If you don’t, plead with your local library to purchase a set.

The books are beyond gorgeous—lavishly illustrated and full of the facts, figures, and results of the Lab’s years of experiments on the history, culture, and deliciousness of bread and bread making.

These books beg to be examined—but also used.  That’s why they come with a 6th volume—a user’s guide.  For that alone….

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Nov 3 2017

Weekend cooking: Sullivan Street Bakery

Jim Lahey with Maya Joseph.  The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook.  Norton, 2017.

Jim Lahey of My Bread, No-Knead Bread, and Sullivan Street Bakery fame, has produced this marvelous cookbook with his wife, Maya Joseph, featuring all the great foods he serves at Co., his New York restaurant on 9th Ave @25th Street.

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of both, not least because Maya, who holds a doctorate in political science from the New School, was my teaching assistant in several courses at NYU, and we’ve co-authored several papers:

  • Joseph M, Nestle M.  The ethics of food.  Lahey Clinic Journal of Medical Ethics 2009;16(1):1-7.
  • Joseph M, Nestle M.  Dialogue: the ethics of food [response].  Medical Ethics 200916(2):7-8.
  • Joseph M, Nestle M.  Food and Politics in the Modern Age: 1920 – 2012   In: Bentley A, ed.  A Cultural History of Food in the Modern Age, Vol. 6.  Berg, 2112:87-110.

Maya is a superb writer and I can hear her voice throughout this book.

The recipes are terrific and easy to follow and the book is beautifully illustrated.  You can taste the recipes at Co. and then have some fun with them at home.  Enjoy!

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Oct 27 2017

Weekend Reading: Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism

Eric Holt-Giménez.  A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat.  Monthly Review Press, 2017.

Image result for A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism

I wrote the Foreword for this book, which Food First published online as a Backgrounder (see my post of September 26).

Here’s what the publisher says:

In his latest book, Eric Holt-Giménez takes on the social, environmental, and economic crises of the capitalist mode of food production. Drawing from classical and modern analyses, A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism introduces the reader to the history of our food system and to the basics of capitalism. In straightforward prose, Holt-Giménez explains the political economics of why—even as local, organic, and gourmet food have spread around the world—billions go hungry in the midst of abundance; why obesity is a global epidemic; and why land-grabbing, global warming, and environmental pollution are increasing.

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Oct 23 2017

Book launch: Alice Waters’ Making of a Counterculture Cook

For those of you in New York, tonight at 7:30 Alice Waters will be at BAM talking with Hilton Als about her new book:

Alice Waters.  Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook.  Clarkson Potter, 2017.

It’s a memoir of her early years leading up to the launch of Chez Panisse, her now famous Berkeley restaurant, in 1971 at the age of 27.  The book recounts familiar stories of her discovery in France of the taste of fresh ingredients, and her attempts to recreate those tastes in America.

But it also draws on her experience with Berkeley politics in the 1960s as the inspiration for her life’s work.  Most touchingly, she dedicates the book to Mario Savio, the now-deceased leader of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement, and talks about the importance of her work on Bob Scheer’s ultimately unsuccessful run for Congress in 1966.

The book is a lovely food memoir that answers lots of questions about what got Alice started on this path.

What it does not do is explain the enormous effectiveness of her moral force—the movement for fresh, local, seasonal, sustainable foods and ingredients; the White House garden; and the thousands of schools with gardens and food as part of the standard curriculum.

I hope she will do another memoir to explain how all that happened, as well.

Oct 20 2017

Weekend Reading: Seven Cheap Things

Raj Patel & Jason Moore.  A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet.  University of California Press, 2017.

I was pleased to do a blurb for this one:

This is a highly original, brilliantly conceptualized analysis of the effects of capitalism on seven key aspects of the modern world. Written with verve and drawing on a range of disciplines, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things is full of novel insights.

What are the seven things so cheap that they are not valued appropriately?

  • Nature
  • Money
  • Work
  • Care
  • Food
  • Energy
  • Lives

Read the book to connect the dots.  As Patel and Moore conclude, if what they say “sounds revolutionary, so much the better.”

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Oct 13 2017

Weekend reading: Politics of the Pantry

Emily E. LB. Twarog.  Politics of the Pantry: Housewives, Food, and Consumer Protest in Twentieth-Century America.  Oxford University Press, 2017.

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I did a blurb for this book:

Who knew that American housewives were up in arms throughout the last century about rising food prices and misleading package information.  Twarog traces the history of how these movements developed, their connections to unions and women’s auxiliaries, and how twentieth-century politics systematically destroyed them.  Her book has much to teach us about what’s needed to preserve—and strengthen–today’s food movements.

Sep 26 2017

Capitalism in our food?

I wrote the Foreword to Eric Holt Giménez’s Foodies Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat.  

His book won’t be out for a few weeks, but Food First, the organization he heads, has published my Foreword as a Backgrounder, titled The Capitalism in Our Food.

Here’s how it begins:

When Eric Holt-Giménez asked me to introduce his Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism, I said yes right away. I love the title, I think the food movement needs this book, and I am tired of having to treat capitalism as the “C-word,”never to be mentioned in polite company. Those of us “foodies” who love to eat and want our food system to produce tastier, healthier, and more sustainable diets—and to provide a decent living to everyone involved in this work—need to bring capitalism out of the closet, understand the problems it causes, and deal with them front and
center. Eric (if I may) has done us an enormous favor by producing this book at this time.

And here’s the pull-quote:

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