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
"A worthy book." (Booklist)
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.
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.
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.
Mom of Twins
I did listen twice to pick up what I missed the first time around.
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.
Hillary Huber's voice sounded like you would expect the author to sound, so it felt like a first person account.
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.
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.
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