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New books on ways of eating, American and not

Posted Mar 19 2012 9:05am

Jonathan Deutsch and Natalya Murakhver, editors, They Eat That?  A Cultural Encyclopedia of Weird and Exotic Food from around the World, ABC-CLIO, 2012.

The editors, both graduates of my NYU department, got their students, colleagues, and friends to write short essays about nearly 100 foods considered weird, at least by someone.  The list includes foods that are anything but weird in other cultures—seitan, durian, nettles, haggis, huitlaloche, vegemite, but also those hardly ever available to even the most serious eaters.  On that list I would put camel, cavy, iguana, and walrus flipper.  As for what I would eat, stinky cheese, yes.  Urine, no way.  The entries put the foods in cultural context and provide references.  Most come with recipes.  This book is fun.

Tracie McMillan, The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table, Scribner 2012.

McMillan followed the footsteps of Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) and went to work at low wage jobs.  She has plenty to say about how hard it is to do them and how little they pay; she provides balance sheets to prove it.  Like Ehrenreich, she’s a good writer and her stories are compelling.  Eating well in America, she says, is difficult—bordering on impossible—for people who don’t have much money.

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