The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table
by Tracie McMillan
source: library book
When award-winning (and working-class) journalist Tracie McMillan saw foodies swooning over $9 organic tomatoes, she couldn’t help but wonder: What about the rest of us? Why do working Americans eat the way we do? And what can we do to change it? To find out, McMillan went undercover in three jobs that feed America, living and eating off her wages in each. Reporting from California fields, a Walmart produce aisle outside of Detroit, and the kitchen of a New York City Applebee’s, McMillan examines the reality of our country’s food industry in this “clear and essential” (The Boston Globe) work of reportage. Chronicling her own experience and that of the Mexican garlic crews, Midwestern produce managers, and Caribbean line cooks with whom she works, McMillan goes beyond the food on her plate to explore the national priorities that put it there.
Fearlessly reported and beautifully written, The American Way of Eating goes beyond statistics and culture wars to deliver a book that is fiercely honest, strikingly intelligent, and compulsively readable. In making the simple case that—city or country, rich or poor—everyone wants good food, McMillan guarantees that talking about dinner will never be the same again. (from amazon)
From California farm fields, to the produce department of a Detroit Walmart, and an Applebee's in Brooklyn, Tracie McMillan lives the lives of those who labor to put food on our plate. She experiences their struggle to eat healthy, fresh food (especially produce), on a paltry salary and shows why processed convenience foods are almost always cheaper and easier. McMillan also details her experiences, including practices and procedures encountered, at two American icons.
The book is very well-written and I appreciated McMillan's weaving background information and facts together with her undercover experiences in food-related jobs. Overall, The American Way of Eating made for some interesting reading but, after bingeing "food books" a couple of years ago, I found nothing particularly groundbreaking here. It does provide plenty of food for thought (pun intended) and makes me even more thankful for readily available fresh ingredients (thank you Wegmans), as well as the time and money necessary to serve my family healthy, well-balanced meals.
An Interesting Statistic:
"Today, about 16 cents of every dollar Americans spend on food ends up back at the farm; the other 84 cents goes to the system that got it on our plates in the first place. The transportation, the packaging, the delivery, the supermarkets, even the cooks at the restaurants, get everything else. If we manage to free up just a few cents of that dollar - something that would be easier to do if we had affordable, public food infrastructure - it stands to reason that we could pay farmers more, and in turn give farm-workers reasonable wages, without seeing our food costs skyrocket." p.240A Disturbing Conclusion:
"Geography and the minute variations between the lowest rungs of our economy change the details, but the healthiest route through the American foodscape is a steep and arduous path most easily ascended by joining its top income bracket. So far as I can tell, changing what's on our plates isn't feasible without changing far more. Wages, health care, work hours, and kitchen literacy are just as critical to changing our diets as the agriculture we practice or the paces at which we shop." p. 231My rating:
My daughter, Carrie, reviewed this book, too. Read her thoughts over at Fitness and Frozen Grapes.
Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone who has a food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up over the weekend.