nrlymrtl, September 15, 2012 (view all comments by nrlymrtl)
I enjoyed this book mostly for the look at the migrant workers that are employed to harvest the majority of produce that fills our grocery stores. One of the many things that I learned from this book was that organic crops can be sprayed with organic pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides. This seems to be going against the purpose of labeling something ‘organic’. Basically, this book reinforced my belief that unless you grow it and cook it yourself, you don’t truly know what you are getting. While this was a great informative book, there were certain spaces in which the story lagged, being filled with statistics.
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hpmom17, August 11, 2012 (view all comments by hpmom17)
Can't wait to read this. Having read many of Barbara Ehrenreich's books and being profoundly changed by the experience, this book sounds like a can't miss.
DiBrarian, August 7, 2012 (view all comments by DiBrarian)
Nickel and Dimed meets Fast Food Nation. McMillan has written a well-researched (and annotated) yet accessible book on our modern food system. On her journey from California fields, to Detroit and its environs, and back to Brooklyn, she thoroughly debunks the myth that only the relatively wealthy want to eat healthy, fresh food. While the bulk of the book focuses on her journey through the food service industry, she also profiles organizations and campaigns that address food justice issues, such as urban farming and the fresh fruit and vegetable vouchers distributed by WIC. A must-read for anyone interested in issues of food accessibility and class.
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ChrisP, March 7, 2012 (view all comments by ChrisP)
I can't wait to read this book because Rush Limbaugh mocked it. I hope Tracie gets the same attention that Sandra Fluke has recently gotten and that she sells millions of books just to spite him! Seriously, I am a fan of Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, I'm a locavore, and support my local food bank as much as possible. I deliver meals to shut-ins for my church so I see people who are food insecure - most are unhealthy and overweight. This issue needs to become part of the national discourse. Maybe Rush's derogatory comments will do that.
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Oscar, February 22, 2012 (view all comments by Oscar)
This book is so much better than I could have even hoped for. Sure, it has a fascinating and entertaining story about a journalist embedded in farm fields, produce sections, and restaurant kitchens. This is the stuff that probably brings you to the book. It has a great balance of humor, nuance, and heartbreaking stories of the work behind the food we take for granted.
So just for that, you won't be disappointed. But there is a whole unexpected side to this book that will rock your world. Tracie McMillan brings some really thought provoking analysis to add context to what she goes through while in the ranks of the nations food workers. Some of the stats she uncovers will make your jaw drop. Other times she digs up some history, like the development of supermarkets or the impact of the national highway system on how we get our food, and you will be left with a deep new understanding of things you probably never thought about before. Trust me, there are some mind blowing revelations in store for you.
I found that this book really made me think, and changed my understanding of the issue of food - not just what food we eat, but what the production of that food means for people working all along the chain. The approach to talking about poverty and economics made these issues accessible and easy to relate to. I didn't feel talked down to, and I didn't feel lectured at. Reading this book is like talking to someone who respects you enough to level with you and give you the real deal. This is the food book you need to read.
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The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table
0 stars -
Scribner Book Company -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Hailing from a middle-class rural Michigan background in which Tuna Helper and iceberg-lettuce salads were the usual dinner fare and later schooled at NYU, journalist McMillan (City Limits magazine) resolved to learn firsthand how the food America eats (mostly packaged and processed) is grown, distributed, and bought. Why does good, fresh food have to cost more and be harder to find than fast food? Over the course of a year she went 'undercover,' posing as a kind of ambitionless 33-year-old 'white girl' in transition (she speaks Spanish), finding jobs as a fruit picker in California (grapes, peaches, garlic); a stock and produce clerk at the Wal-Mart in Kalamazoo, Mich., and another outside of Detroit; and as an expediter ('kitchen novice') at the Applebee's restaurant in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. In each job she stayed about two months; found a room to rent nearby; claims to have lived off her earnings, which she documents meticulously; and was rarely above the poverty level, e.g., as a picker she made an average of a week. Personable, self-deprecating, elucidating, McMillan's account achieves an engaging balance between documentary and history, rich in the personalities of the people she works with and befriends while offering a smattering of research, such as tracing the growth of the world's first supermarket, King Kullen, and visiting Detroit's still teeming Terminal market." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"McMillan provides an eye-opening account of the route much of American food takes from the field to the restaurant table."
by Ted Conover, author of Newjack and Coyotes,
"Tracie McMillan is gutsy, scrappy, and hard-working — you'd have to be to write this book. The American Way of Eating takes us local in a new way, exploring who works to get food from the field to the plates in front of us, what they are paid, and how it feels. It's sometimes grim but McMillan doesn't flinch; I especially appreciated her openness in telling us what she spent in order to get by (or not). A welcome addition to the urgent, growing body of journalism on food."
by Eric Schlosser,
"With much courage and compassion, McMillan explores the lives of those at the bottom of our food system. Here is a glimpse of the people who feed us — and the terrible price they pay. If we want to change the system, this is where we must begin."
by Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved and The Value of Nothing,
"These tales lay bare the sinews, the minds, and the relationships that our food system exploits and discards. In a work of deep compassion and integrity, Tracie McMillan offers us an eye-opening report on the human cost of America's cheap food."
by Barry Estabook, author of Tomatoland,
"To uncover the truth behind how our modern food system works, Tracie M. McMillan took jobs in a supermarket produce section, a chain restaurant kitchen, and the fields alongside migrant laborers. If you eat, you owe it to yourself to read this masterful book."
by Janet Poppendieck, author of Free for All and Sweet Charity,
"Three cheers for Tracie McMillan; this book is a revelation! It is the sort of engaging first person adventure story that reads like a good novel, all the while supplying the facts and figures that make the larger picture clear. I'm grateful to her in equal parts for the stamina and courage to undertake this undercover journey, the narrative skill that makes the account so digestible, and the commitment to social justice for both workers and consumers that infuses the whole project."
by James Oseland, author of Cradle of Flavor,
"Tracie McMillan has written a remarkable book for right now — a book that smartly tells us what is wrong with what we eat and how we might improve it. But what is even more remarkable about the book is how deeply engaging it is. With her intimate and confident portraits of American food workers, she crafts a touching, emotional narrative that will stay with you long after you have finished the last page."
by Warren Belasco, author of Appetite for Change and Meals to Come,
"This is a wonderful introduction to the triumph and tragedy of the American food industry. Mixing compassionate participant observation with in depth, up-to-the-minute background research, Tracie McMillan takes us for an eye-opening, heart-rending tour of the corporate food chain. Along the way we meet unforgettable people who, at great personal cost, labor hard so that we can eat cheaply and easily. Having seen what it takes to move our meals from farm to table, the reader will emerge shaken, enlightened, and forever thankful."
by William Finnegan, author of Cold New World,
"This is an amazing book. Tracie McMillan willtake any reader into new territory. The implacable fierceness of farm work, the slovenliness behind the produce section at Walmart — prepare to be submerged in harsh little worlds and shocked. But McMillan keeps her cool, always presenting the context and the content of her struggles with enough analytic detachment to rough out a complete, and convincing, vision of food as a social good. Read her book and your dinner will never look the same."
by New York Times,
"The book Ms. McMillan's most resembles is Barbara Ehrenreich's best seller Nickel and Dimed. Like Ms. Ehrenreich, Ms. McMillan goes undercover amid this country's working poor....This is a voice the food world needs."
"The genius, genius Tracie McMillan went from growing up eating a lot of processed foods to cultivating an interest in fancier, local cuisine, to even writing for high-end culinary publications including Saveur mag. Her personal journey led her to write this must read, which investigates our food system and what's exactly keeping Americans from eating well, and what we can do to fix it. (Did I mention genius?)"
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"Valiant...McMillan's undercover work for The American Way of Eating takes readers on an educational journey."
Inspired by the growing interest in food and the conversation about what we should be eating and where it should come from award-winning journalist Tracie McMillan began to wonder how America's working class could afford, let alone have time, to eat as well as they should. In 2009 McMillan decided to immerse herself in America's food system — from farm to restaurant kitchen — and work undercover alongside America's working poor in order to examine how we eat.
Moving from California to Detroit to New York, McMillan worked as a farm laborer, a Wal-Mart clerk in the grocery section, and an expediter at Applebee's. She often lived and worked and shared kitchens and food with her co-workers. She takes us into these worlds with vivid descriptions of the people she meets; the grueling work; the treatment of workers; and the food that's being grown, sold, and prepared. She lives within the means her low pay allows and demonstrates what that means in terms of the food she can afford to buy and the time she has to prepare it.
Good and healthy food should not be a luxury and in her important book Tracie McMillian explores why eating well in our country is limited to the few and what we can do about it and she establishes herself as an important young journalist writing about one of the hottest topics in America.
In the tradition of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, an ambitious and accessible work of undercover journalism that fully investigates our food system to explain what keeps Americans from eating well — and what we can do about it.
Getting Americans to eat well is one of today's hottest social issues; it's at the forefront of Michelle Obama's agenda and widely covered in the media — from childhood obesity to store brands trying to make their food healthier. Yet most Americans still eat poorly, and award-winning journalist Tracie McMillan wanted to know why. So, in 2009 McMillan went to work undercover in our nation's food system alongside America's working poor, living and eating off her wages, to examine how we eat.
McMillan worked on industrial farms in California, in a Walmart produce section outside Detroit, and at an Applebee's kitchen in New York City. Her vivid narrative brings readers along to grueling work places, introduces them to her coworkers, and takes them home to her kitchen, to see what kind of food she (and her coworkers) can afford to buy and prepare. With striking precision, McMillan also weaves in the story of how we got here, digging deep into labor, economics, politics, and social science to reveal new and surprising truths about how America's food is grown, sold, and prepared — and what it would take to change the system.
Fascinating and timely, this groundbreaking work examines why eating well in America — despite the expansion of farmer's markets and eat local movements — is limited to the privileged minority.
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