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The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table | [Tracie McMillan]

The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table

What if you can't afford nine-dollar tomatoes? That was the question award-winning journalist Tracie McMillan couldn't escape as she watched the debate about America's meals unfold, one that urges us to pay food's true cost-which is to say, pay more. So in 2009 McMillan embarked on a groundbreaking undercover journey to see what it takes to eat well in America. For nearly a year, she worked, ate, and lived alongside the working poor to examine how Americans eat when price matters.
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Publisher's Summary

What if you can't afford nine-dollar tomatoes? That was the question award-winning journalist Tracie McMillan couldn't escape as she watched the debate about America's meals unfold, one that urges us to pay food's true cost-which is to say, pay more. So in 2009 McMillan embarked on a groundbreaking undercover journey to see what it takes to eat well in America. For nearly a year, she worked, ate, and lived alongside the working poor to examine how Americans eat when price matters.

From the fields of California, a Walmart produce aisle outside of Detroit, and the kitchen of a New York City Applebee's, McMillan takes us into the heart of America's meals. With startling intimacy she portrays the lives and food of Mexican garlic crews, Midwestern produce managers, and Caribbean line cooks, while also chronicling her own attempts to live and eat on meager wages. Along the way, she asked the questions still facing America a decade after the declaration of an obesity epidemic: Why do we eat the way we do? And how can we change it? To find out, McMillan goes beyond the food on her plate to examine the national priorities that put it there. With her absorbing blend of riveting narrative and formidable investigative reporting, McMillan takes us from dusty fields to clanging restaurant kitchens, linking her work to the quality of our meals-and always placing her observations in the context of America's approach not just to farms and kitchens but to wages and work. The surprising answers that McMillan found on her journey have profound implications for our food and agriculture, and also for how we see ourselves as a nation. Through stunning reportage, Tracie McMillan makes the simple case that-city or country, rich or poor-everyone wants good food.

Fearlessly reported and beautifully written, The American Way of Eating goes beyond statistics and culture wars to deliver a book that is fiercely intelligent and compulsively readable. Talking about dinner will never be the same again.

©2012 Tracie McMillan (P)2012 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"A worthy book." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (79 )
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4.0 (70 )
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  •  
    Tim United States 03-06-13
    Tim United States 03-06-13 Member Since 2010

    My reviews are honest. No sugar coating here.

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    "Gringa Whines"

    I was really hoping for more in "The American Way of Eating", but it was written in the wrong format. Instead of being in the documentary style, where information is the key, Tracie McMillan tells her story about trying to get labor work in the fields, being a stock boy at Walmart, and working in a kitchen at Apple Bee's. Her experiences gets in the way from the objective for the book because she whines a lot of being under pay, too much work, and working the night shift.

    This book fails in many ways. I was looking for information about food, but instead I got a cry story about a Gringa that whines about her job. If you take out the facts about food, you are just getting another story of a person's struggle.

    Read "Eating Animals" and "Fast Food Nation", if you want to know more about what we eat. If you want to know more about the meat packing industry, there is no classic better than "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair. If you want to know more about what is like working at a restaurant and what its like being a waiter, "Waiter Rant" will be your best choice.

    As for "The American Way of Eating", there are enough substance to keep you informed, but it's like watching an episode of Undercover Boss, where it's so much work for the boss and they can't keep up with the workers.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harbinger of books Silver Spring, MD, United States 01-06-14
    Harbinger of books Silver Spring, MD, United States 01-06-14 Member Since 2011

    Harbinger of Books

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    "A bit disappointing"

    I was browsing through audible and came across the “American Way of Eating” by Tracie McMillan and narrated by Hilary Huber. What caught my attention was this idea of why it is so difficult for so many Americans to eat well. In her book she describes how she takes on a series of unskilled jobs from farm to plate – laboring as a farmhand where she picked grapes, sorted garlic, onions and peaches and later cut garlic. Then she goes on to stock shelves at Wal-Mart and finally works as an expeditor at Applebee’s.

    I am always interested in the invisible members of society and to that end I can say Hilary Huber does a wonderful job bringing this story to life. In the field there are some interesting stories about how people are living and what people are eating. Then after she leaves the fields we rather lose that perspective instead it mostly about take home pay and what she encounters at work.

    Unfortunately the point of her book was supposed to be more about why it is so difficult for American’s to eat well. By the end of her book I could not really see the connection between the work she did and people’s food choices. I know what it is like to wake up and work in a crappy job all while trying to make ends meet. I know how hard it is to figure out how to pay for the basic necessities of life and while I have always chosen to buy whole food instead of fast or convenience food – her story made it seem like this is not an option.
    I think I am disappointed in this book because I wanted more about social change, people making different conscious efforts to support a better food structure. I wanted more time in the fields to see how they did eat and more in depth stories about their health that kind of thing.

    So for me the book missed its own mark. I think it was entertaining though just not sure if it is really all that informative.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bleu Chicago, IL, United States 07-22-13
    Bleu Chicago, IL, United States 07-22-13 Member Since 2003

    Graphic Designer. Culinary Enthusiast. Mostly User Friendly.

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    "Interesting Story, Great Narration"

    This book was a little slow and sometimes felt a little scattered, but overall I found the information to be pretty interesting. I liked narrator Hillary Huber's voice a lot, and it really seemed to fit the author. The style came across as very conversational, and it very much felt like the author was just relating her story to me in a casual and entertaining way.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Chittenden USA 01-03-13
    Laura Chittenden USA 01-03-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Great Storytelling!"

    I am familiar with how it can be disturbing to go behind the kitchen of modern food processing in America, so I was a bit hesitant about this book, not wanting to hear another horror account. Yet I was pleasantly surprised. While disturbing realities are revealed, they are presented in such a way that I did not have nightmares. Rather, this is a journey of beautiful storytelling of one journalist's quest to answer the question of why healthy food is so hard to get and how it got to be that way in America.

    The narrator does a splendid job of communicating the intonation, the inflection, and the story the author wanted to share in a way that makes her book an easy-listen.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Heard 06-26-12
    E. Heard 06-26-12 Member Since 2011

    Mom of Twins

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    "Important story. New perspective."
    Would you listen to The American Way of Eating again? Why?

    I did listen twice to pick up what I missed the first time around.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The story is important. I learned that the food I eat is harvested by people who are oppressed and as the food moves along the chain, the people that handle the food are only slightly less oppressed. It doesn't matter whether I buy garlic at Whole Foods or Walmart, the garlic harvesters suffer greatly in their work. The story makes me sad and also made me learn how extremely complicated the situation is. I thought I knew about these things.


    What does Hillary Huber bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Hillary Huber's voice sounded like you would expect the author to sound, so it felt like a first person account.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I frequently think of the boy who damaged his thumb picking peas and the boy who accompanied his mother picking grapes and selling food to the workers. My children don't know how blessed they are.


    Any additional comments?

    There are many complicated problems related to America's food supply. Food here is so abundant that our poor people are obese. There are other costs to the abundance.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    chris 10-18-13
    chris 10-18-13
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    "Too broad an overview; nothing new to read here"
    Would you try another book from Tracie McMillan and/or Hillary Huber?

    Yes from the narrator Hillary Huber


    What was most disappointing about Tracie McMillan’s story?

    The book read more like a news report with little depth of description.


    What does Hillary Huber bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Hearing live speech always makes a reading more interesting when it is done well


    What character would you cut from The American Way of Eating?

    There were too many characters to single one out


    Any additional comments?

    While interesting to a point, the central theme is that one cannot afford to live well on minimum wage or less. No kidding, really? At times the read is very sad and inspires you to want to act in some manner but the truth of business is profits before people.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ray Glendale, AZ, United States 08-04-12
    Ray Glendale, AZ, United States 08-04-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Very Interesting"

    Great read. I only gave it 3 stars but the overall subject is still good, and it can serve as an eye opener for the uninitiated or just an interesting read for those already schooled on the "food" movement.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Crypto CT 06-26-13
    Crypto CT 06-26-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Sincere story with insincere voice"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I have just listened to the book for 10 minutes. It seems like a very sincere and intelligent storytelling which I like very much. But the narrator's voice has such a sneer in it that I need to constantly fight the distraction. I'd really love a more proper voice to go with the book.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • ACD
    9/30/14
    Overall
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    "Good content, bad medium"
    Would you try another book written by Tracie McMillan or narrated by Hillary Huber?

    I would try another book written by Tracie McMillan.I would not try another book narrated by Hillary Huber (see below).


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Not relevant to my review.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The tone of the reader was detached from and often opposite to the content of the book. The book critiques aspects of the food industry yet the narration sounded like a lively radio voice. The best examples may be several cases where something negative is being said about Wal-Mart but the narrator pronounces the company's name with such gusto you would think it's a commercial.


    What character would you cut from The American Way of Eating?

    This questions adds no value. It's the author's book for her to publish, not mine to edit.


    Any additional comments?

    Is there a volume control on the web player? I can't find it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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