by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Books

Jan 19 2018

Weekend Reading: The New Bread Basket

Amy Halloran.  The New Bread Basket: How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists are Redefining Our Daily Loaf.  Chelsea Green, 2015.

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I missed this when it came out, but Chelsea Green just sent me a copy.  I’m happy to have it, because it starts out by talking about the people behind the Community Supported Bakery (CSB) program I belong to in upstate New York around Ithaca: Stefan Senders’ Wide Awake Bakery and Thor Oechsner who grows and mills most of the grain for that bakery.

Halloran interviewed many local and national people in the various categories of her book’s subtitle.  If you want to know how and why there is now so much fabulous bread available in so many places in America, her book explains all.

Bread lover that I am, I am grateful to all of them.

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Jan 12 2018

Weekend reading: Diet and the Disease of Civilization

Adrienne Rose Bitar.  Diet and the Disease of Civilization.  Rutgers University Press, 2017.

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I did a blurb for this one:

Bitar’s fascinating thesis is that diet books are ways to understand contemporary social and political movements.  Whether or not you agree with her provocative arguments, they are well worth reading.

I also took some extra notes because the publisher wanted a particularly short blurb.  As you might suspect from my brief comment, I have some quibbles with some of Bitar’s arguments, but the book is interesting, well written, and worth a look.

Bitar deals with four categories of diet books: Paleolithic, faith-based, South Seas paradise, and detox (this last category strangely includes Michael Pollan’s and my work).

Here’s a sample from the chapter I thought strongest, the one on Paleolithic diets.  It refers to classic images of man arising from apes, and then degenerating into obesity.

These images suggest what is much more explicit in the text—that the diet is a story about humanity, about evolution, about civilization and dis-mankind.  The body of the individual dieter is situated in a long, deep history of mankind.  The dieter is biologically indebted to the Paleolithic Era and, in turn, the coming generations will be indebted to him.  Everyday body practices of the individual—eating, sleeping, walking—are elevated to symbols of mankind’s ascent or descent, failures or triumph, in the grand narrative of progress (p. 41).

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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.

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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.

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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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