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Monday, February 27, 2012

“Food culture in the United States has long been cast as the property of a privileged class. It is nothing of the kind,”

The American Way
of Eating

(Scribner 2012)

578 Kb


From the introduction:

Like all myths, the idea that only the affluent and educated care about their meals has spread not because it is true, but because parts of it are. Healthier food is more expensive; that much is true. So is the fact that it can be hard to find in poor neighborhoods. And yet it requires an impossible leap of logic to conclude from these facts that only the rich care about their meals. “Food culture in the United States has long been cast as the property of a privileged class. It is nothing of the kind,” wrote Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She may be right, but for most people—myself included—seeing good food as a luxury product is just the way it is. It has been so deeply embedded in our thinking about our meals that we barely notice it. I didn’t until I met Vanessa.
That’s a polite way of saying I believed that the way I thought about food was so deeply removed from the “rest” of America that it would be foreign—inapplicable, even—once I descended the class ladder a few rungs.Implicit in that is the idea that the food culture I had chosen for myself was not only different from, but a little bit superior to, the others on offer throughout America’s kitchens. Like most armors, this hubris protected me from feeling as if I didn’t know what I was doing—something most of us need from time to time, and almost always when we leave home behind. But it also obscured my view and limited my movement. Eventually, I had to strip myself of it, and try to look at the world in a new way, asking the question, What would it take for us all to eat well?

I didn’t know; there’s no way I could have. But, luckily, I’m a reporter. What I don’t know, I can go find out.

Excerpted on Slate: Working at Applebee’s

At 9:30 I am shoved aside. The rush has slowed for the cooks, but it has migrated to the pass, a stampede of meals run amok. There are bowls of pasta teetering on top of each other; platters of ribs sitting in pyramids; towers of chicken baskets and trio plates hitting the top of the window. This food has to go out now. Calixto abandons broil to Damian, the other broil cook, and Omar leaves Geoff on mid to come work expo, and with a brusque, Excuse me, Ma, I’m ousted to the head of the pass, relegated to wiping down plates and checking orders against tickets before they go out. Terry’s pulling from fry, Omar’s talking to Geoff on mid, Calixto’s grabbing plates from broil. Everyone’s working their own tickets, calling for plates from every window, a furious flurry of arms and cheap porcelain flying up and down the line. I’ve heard line work described as being as graceful as dance, but this is harder, faster, hotter, meaner. What comes to mind is neither battle nor ballet, but a simultaneous expression of both—Capoeira.*

Read the excerpt series 

Excerpted on Gilt Taste:

Dolores and José have fed me nearly every day since I moved in. I handle my own breakfasts (coffee and bread), and pack my own lunches (PB&J and cheese sandwiches), but when the sun begins to drop behind the Coast Range and the evening breeze picks up, there’s a loosely communal meal on offer, and I am always invited. Sometimes the other boarders eat with us, but rarely. There has been sufficient time since my inaugural bowl of soup for a little guilt to seep in about this state of affairs. Here I am, a single per- son, eating the food of a seven-person family with funds so limited that they fill their cupboards from an informal food pantry twice a week.

Still, I want to feel like I’m contributing, so I’m focusing on helping Inez, Dolores’s fourteen-year-old daughter, with her English. She has been in the States for about five months, and she spends her days cooking most of the family meals, watching the smaller children, and cleaning house. Teach- ing anyone English is no small task, but I find it particularly difficult with Inez because even her Spanish is weak; her English is nonexistent. Though she went to school in Mexico, Inez isn’t going to classes here; we had to start with the alphabet. She’s so self-conscious that teaching her anything requires an almost endless stream of encouragement. To help even our foot- ing, I have asked her to teach me something in which she is fluent and I am not: tortillas.

Read the full excerpt at GiltTaste.com after Feb. 21.

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BONUS:If you preorder and email the receipt to us, Tracie will send you a hand-written thank you note for print copies (digital one for eBooks) when the book comes out in February 2012!


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