by Marion Nestle

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Feb 14 2013

Barclays agrees to stop speculating on food. Is Fred Kaufman responsible?

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.

Feb 6 2013

New books in my library

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 Diner's Dictionary: Word Origins of Food and Drink

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.


Jan 15 2013

Reading food and food politics

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.

Dec 14 2012

Weekend reading: new books about eating

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, PureLittle, 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.

Dec 6 2012

New books take a fresh look at public health

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.

Dec 4 2012

The food movement: new books

The digital age may be upon us but I see no sign that books are disappearing.  They flood in, and a great many of them are worth reading and adding to my office library.  Here are a few recent ones on various aspects of the food movement.

Michelle Obama, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, Crown, 2012.

Sometimes a garden is just a garden, but this one is a movement on its own.  As the First Lady explains:

I wanted this garden to be more than just a plot of land growing vegetables on the White House lawn.  I wanted it to be the starting point for something bigger…I was alarmed by reports of skyrocketing childhood obesity rates and the dire consequences for our children’s health.  And I hoped the garden would help begin a conversation about this issue—a conversation about the food we eat, the lives we lead, and how all of that affects our children.  

Sally Fairfax, et al.,  California Cuisine and Just Food.  MIT Press, 2012.

I wrote the foreword to this account of the development of the San Francisco Bay Area food movement, starting with:

California Cuisine and Just Food takes a deep and comprehensive look at past and present efforts to bring tastier, healthier, locally grown, and ethically produced food to San Francisco Bay Area eaters, poor as well as rich.  The story is inspiring.  The authors of this collectively written account, cautious academics as they must be, describe the development of the Bay Area food scene as a “district” rather than as a social movement.  But I have no such compunctions.  It looks like a social movement to me.  This book is about how the Bay Area food movement evolved to what it is today: a vibrant community of highly diverse groups working on highly diverse ways to produce better quality food and promote a more just, healthful, and sustainable food system—for everyone along the entire system of what it takes to produce, transport, sell, prepare, serve, and consume food.

Katherine Gustafson, Change Comes to Dinner:  How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators are Revolutionizing How America Eats, St. Martins, 2012.

I blurbed this one:

In her wildly successful cross-country search for alternatives to our industrialized food system, Katherine Gustafson comes up with a terrific new word: “hoperaking,” the gathering of inspiration (and the opposite of muckraking).  The people whose work she describes here should inspire anyone to get busy and start planting.

Robin Shulman, Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Bee Keepers, Wine Makers, and Brewers Who Built New York, Crown Publishers, 2012.

Eat the City is about the men and women who came to New York City–now and in the past–and planted gardens, harvested honey, made cheese, and brewed beer and made New York what it is today.  Robin Shulman uses their stories to bring this rich history to life and to reflect on the forces that brought immigrants and their food traditions to this city.   Not all of these stories have happy endings, but they inform, move, and inspire.

Nov 23 2012

Easy Black Friday suggestion: 101 Classic Cookbooks, 501 Classic Recipes

The Fales Library at NYU has been collecting cookbooks and other food studies materials for the past 8 years or so, and now houses at least 55,000 books and additional thousands of pamphlets, menus, and other ephemeral food materials.

To celebrate the collection, Fales curator Marvin Taylor and food consultant Clark Wolf teamed up with Rizzoli publishers to produce a huge (5-pound),gorgeously illustrated book of descriptions of 101 20th century cookbooks, accompanied by essays on their value and maimportance by dozens of distinguished food writers.

I have a personal interest in this book. I teach at NYU and I wrote the Foreword to the book and an essay on 20th century books about nutrition.

Here’s some of what Rizzoli says about the book:

In this marvelous collection, 501 of these signature recipes have been carefully selected from 101 great cookbooks of the twentieth century—beloved tomes passed down through generations. The list of masterworks was chosen by an expert advisory committee that includes Jonathan Gold, Michael Pollan, and Ruth Reichl.

It is like having a library of culinary classics condensed into one volume. You’ll discover so many timeless gems, such as Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon, Elizabeth David’s Bouillabaisse, Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Ragu, Jacques Pepin’s Brioche, James Beard’s Pig Hamburgers, and Irma Rombauer’s Devil’s Food Cake Cockaigne.

But you’ll also read about how these books and recipes revolutionized the way we eat. Interspersed throughout are nostalgic images from the vintage first editions. It is a fascinating culinary tour that in whole tells much of the story of American culture at large.

The book’s essays comprise a history of 20th century food.  The illustrations are magnificent.  I think it makes a splendid gift (full disclosure: I was not paid to write for the book, and I get no money from its sales).

Nov 15 2012

Thanks to the Nutrition Book Club at Syracuse U.

Before my University Lecture at Syracuse University on Tuesday, I met with nutrition students who started a book club and were reading Why Calories Count.

Here they are with bookbags printed with the logo of this blog site.

Thanks so much.  It was an honor and pleasure to meet with you.