Tag Archives: food industry

** Franchise by Marcia Chatelain

Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America uses the well-known fast food chain to describe the much larger story of African-American entrepreneurs, civil rights, and racism in America. The author occasionally places all the blame of the racist climate onto Mc Donald’s, which seems somewhat unfair–and at the same time correctly identifies clearly racist practices in assigning franchise locations. I found the stories of African-American entrepreneurs who sought success as franchisees particularly interesting.

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** The Way We Eat Now by Bee Wilson

The author of The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World explore how a world that, for the most part, finally has enough food, is at the same time producing badly-fed, if overly large, bodies. She shows how sweet drinks, large plates, solo eating, restaurant eating, horribly unhealthy packaged foods, and government subsidies for sugar and corn all conspired to make more calories and less nutrients available to all of us.

Her suggestions are mostly for individuals, as in eating on smaller plates, and drinking water, although she does suggest teaching children about healthy and tasty foods in school, which seems like a great idea. There should be a way out of moneyed bad eating, right?

 

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** The Last Lobster by Christopher White

 

The reproductive cycle of the lobster depends, a lot, on the temperature of the water, which is why there are no more lobsters off New York City but the Maine fisheries are booming, or at least they were, as Canadian waters warm up, too.  The Last Lobster: Boom or Bust for Maine’s Greatest Fishery? goes fishing with the Maine lobstermen (the rare women doing that job call themselves lobstermen, too), explains the rather long supply chain from them to our plates, and desserts about climate change. I most enjoyed the visits with the lobstermen. It’s pretty rough sailing, tough and dangerous work, and it also starts ungodly early.

It’s also clear that placing reasonable limits on fishing would help everyone, and some cities have tried to implement local regulations that work surprisingly well, at least if the water temperature would stay constant. And lobstermen have done well expanding their reach into the supply chain, which requires ingenuity and very different skills than those required on the boat.

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Filed under New fiction

** The Poison Squad by Deborah Blum

We take it for granted that our milk contains milk, maple syrup something more than mere corn syrup, and that canned meat won’t kill us. The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century recalls a time when early food manufacturers felt free to sell pretty much anything, in the absence of any legislation. The book describes the difficult fight of a chemist, Dr. Wiley, to research safe products and push for regulations, the 1906 Food and Drug Act, against the strong objections of the food industry. That should make for a great, inspiring story, and there are indeed some delightful moments, as when roomfuls of young men are enlisted to eat their way through doubtful preservatives (well, maybe not so delightful for the young men!). But the pace is slow and the details somewhat mind-numbing.

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** JELL-O Girls: A Family History by Allie Rowbottom

With JELL-O Girls: A Family History, I was expecting a history of the brand and the book provides some glimpses of it, but it’s really an opportunity for the author to tell the sad story of her mother’s life, molded (pun intended) and limited by the expectations of the time much more than the family inheritance, and ended prematurely in a protracted, wretched bout with cancer. Basically we are reminded that money does not deliver happiness, especially when health is lacking.

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** Milk by Mark Kurlansky

Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas is full of interesting tidbits that would make a great trivia quiz: why Icelandic yogurt is so delicious (and is not yogurt at all!); that 14th Century Arabs made a milk and colostrum (!) mixture; that 18th century French physicians recommended ice cream as health food (I’m in!); that cows produce four times as much milk today than in 1942; and that Tibetan yaks serve as snow plows as much as milk producers.

The stories are often interesting, but they seem to be stitched together one after the other, logically perhaps, but in the dry style of a thousand index cards filled in by research assistants. Do research assistants still use index cards? Probably not, but that’s what the book feels like, and the recipes that are interleaved with the text do not dismiss that impression.

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** Fishing by Brian Fagan

Fishing: How the Sea Fed Civilization ambitiously considers fishing as a source of food from pre-historic times to today.  Starting with Neanderthal bands on the banks of the Rhone river, the author reports on the weights and shapes of fish bones (since the rest of the bodies are long gone), and I wonder about how many grad students painstakingly separated tiny bones from the rest of the excavations! We should be very thankful for those bones, and the grass students counting them, since the fish have no antlers or other distinctive features that would indicate their bring consumed otherwise. As we step into the centuries it becomes very obvious that fish has been a very important source of food, and especially protein, through winters, ice ages, and droughts. Interestingly, technology in the form of spears, harpoons, nets of all kinds, boats of course, and basins for raising fish is a surprisingly large part of the story.

 

 

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Filed under Non fiction