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Food for Thought
How the Sausage Gets Made: Books About the Food Industry
E. coli in spinach. Salmonella in peanut butter. Pink slime. Horse meat! It seems like every year there is a new food safety scandal, and efforts made to reform the enormous industry that delivers calories (good ones and bad ones) to our mouths.
Trying to learn more about where food comes from, who makes it, the supply chain, and how it is marketed to us as consumers can only be a good thing. Whether this increased awareness can create lasting social or economic changes, it's hard to say. After reading Fast Food Nation for the first time over ten years ago, I know my eyes were opened to abhorrent practices within fast food chains. But I still love a McDonald's french fry every once in a while. They are tough to resist — maybe even addictive!
Fear of Food by Harvey Levenstein explores the various ways throughout history we've been afraid of food — whether it's bacteria (good kinds and bad), adulterants and contaminants, the perceived effect of vitamins, fat and cholesterol on our health, and "natural" food movements over time.
Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation is the original exposé on drive-through chains and their rise in American popular culture and daily life.
In The American Way of Eating, Tracy McMillan goes undercover in three places: a farm as a day laborer, a Wal-Mart selling produce, and a kitchen at Applebee's, mostly reheating packaged vegetables. Living at or below minimum wage, she's looking for insights on how the fresh food we eat is picked, delivered, and fed to working-class Americans at home or in a restaurant.
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals asks that all-important question: what should we have for dinner? Stop at the drive-through, pick up something organic at the store, place an order direct from a local farmer, or forage or hunt it ourselves? Michael Pollan explores the whole continuum and, surprise, there aren't always easy answers. A big takeaway from this book is the explanation of the various industries promoting the use of corn and corn byproducts.
This week the New York Times magazine features a lengthy excerpt from a new book by Michael Moss: Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. It describes the work of food scientists and marketing teams, who collaborate to make food that doesn't just taste good, it tastes good in a completely addictive way. The crunch, the level of sweet and salt, the "mouthfeel" has all been deliberately constructed to keep us dipping into the bag for more... and keep us buying. The argument here is that children are the most vulnerable to these practices and it's a problem because the obesity epidemic is not slowing down.
There are many more resources on these topics. Any you would recommend? I'll add them to this "Food Industry" list in BiblioCommons. Are there books or films that have led you to make changes to your eating habits? Let us know in the comments.