Looking for holiday gift ideas or just a good read to relax with over the long weekend? We’ve provided you with three insightful book reviews to sink your teeth into.
Behind the Kitchen Door is a powerful exposé of the labor practices of the contemporary restaurant industry intended to make the case that the treatment of workers is at least as instrumental to the goals of the burgeoning sustainable food movement as free-range chickens, grass-fed cows, or organic, locally sourced, non-GMO produce. Written by Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), which is the organization that emerged in the aftermath of the tragic deaths of 73 workers at the iconic Windows on the World restaurant on 9/11, the book is a trove of information about industry structure and employment practices.
This book is interesting, but strange. It is hard to dismiss, but difficult to call a masterpiece. The book talks about two countries without being comparative, but in a way that helps comparative studies and thinking. This is a book about the raw material that is used to produce the chocolate you have been eating, about the fair trade you have been supporting, and about how the output of smallholder farmers acts as steroids for the economies of entire nations.
Wallach, Jennifer Jensen. How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 2013. 240 pp. ISBN-13: 978-1442232188. $24.95 (paperback list).
From the titles, we get a hint that How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture and White Bread: A Social History of the Store-bought Loaf occupy opposite ends of a spectrum. Both are social histories, and both are concerned with food, but one is a wide-ranging history of all things food related, while the other focuses on one item – commercial white bread. How America Eats is a rather impersonal account, while White Bread is embedded in the author’s own experiences and ethos. The differences in perspective, though, provide what turn out to be remarkably similar insights into American food history.