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Paradox Of Plenty: A Social History Of Eating In Modern America
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Paradox Of Plenty: A Social History Of Eating In Modern America ( California Studies in Food and Culture #8)

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  127 ratings  ·  13 reviews
America has always been blessed with an abundance of food, but when it comes to the national diet, it is a land of stark contrast and paradox. In the early months of the Depression, for instance, there were 82 breadlines in New York City alone, and food riots broke out in such places as Henryetta, Oklahoma, and England, Arkansas. Yet at the same time, among those who were ...more
Published January 14th 1993 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1988)
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Picks up where Revolution at the Table leaves off. I have read A LOT about food in the past two weeks, but Levenstein's writing still shines. All the complementary things I said about RatT apply here also, just discussing 1930-1990. The discussion of the mechanization of food production from the 1950s onwards kind of makes me never want to eat anything ever again, but that's okay.
Paradox of Plenty was cited in a wide array of awesome environmental and nutritional histories I've read. It came up over and over as a source for all sorts of different things, from synthetic vitamin supplements to cultural divides in eating habits to soil erosion. The literature implied it was a vast, sweeping, and detailed history of food issues in America. I'm happy to say it lived up to its promise.

Levenstein weaves three main threads together throughout the book: processing tech and nutri
It took me weeks to get through Terrors of the Table by Walter Gratzer, but this book I have flown through in like a week. It is wonderfully written, very entertaining, and full of good research. A fascinating sociological and historical overview of how food and nutrition trends have come and gone in the US in the 20th century.

What is most fascinating are some of the parallels between the late 60s and 1970s and now, with oil price rises, civil unrest, and a return to gourmet and home cooking, e
Paradox of Plenty is an expansive book covering the Great Depression through the Regan era. Levenstein charts the rise and fall of American concern (or lack of concern) with domestic and international hunger alongside the obsession with dieting (and healthy eating). He documents the influence of corporations and federal policies on what we eat and why we eat it.
The premise of this book was interesting. I appreciated the organization of the book, and, although the print was TINY (seriously, like swear size 8 font, no exaggeration), I found it hard to set down as the history of food through culture is a topic I find thrilling.

Issues I had with the edition I read and why it's only a 3:

My edition was from 1993. So there was no information post President George Herbert Walker Bush. I would have enjoyed reading about the rest of the 90's and the last decade.
Okay, so, I didn't get to finish this one as I had to return it to the library in order to "officially graduate". So there's that. I did, however, read about 100 pages and they were a damn great 100 pages (only giving 3 stars as I only read about half). A great covering of food politics and fads up through the Depression and into WWI and much more conversational and readable that other things getting at the same topics (Criser, for example). This book served as a great springboard for ideas and ...more
A fascinating history of the 20th century attitudes toward food and food politics. (However, the e-book is a bad copy, which caused me to slog through it.) If you care about food justice, or modern food, or are interested in any of the food eras of the 20th century, you should take a look at this book. If you care about welfare policy, or about the politics of obesity, you should look at this book.
Nicole G.
I was only able to read the first edition; I would be interested to take a look at the revised edition and see what new goodies are in it. This book was extremely interesting, documenting America's strange obsessions with food, corporate influence on what we eat, and so on.
An interesting book on one of my favorite subjects: food. It really opened my eyes to how past events really had impacted my food culture. However, I felt that Levenstein kept repeating himself throughtout the book. Other then that it was pretty good.
In these days of hype and agenda-driven information, it was both informative and refreshing to read a balanced food book written by someone who does research and isn't just out to get a movie deal.
Beth Barnett
Sequel to Revolution at the Table, discusses food policy during the Depression and changes in American foodways through the 20th Century.
Duncan Mchale
Recommended by Brent Cunningham in a Lapham's Quarterly podcast 7/25/11.
Very interesting if you are a food addict like me...
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Other Books in the Series

California Studies in Food and Culture (1 - 10 of 49 books)
  • Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices
  • Eating Right in the Renaissance (California Studies in Food and Culture, 2)
  • Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
  • Camembert: A  National Myth (California Studies in Food and Culture, 4)
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  • Eating Apes (California Studies in Food and Culture, 6)
  • Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet (California Studies in Food and Culture, 7)
  • Zinfandel: A History of a Grape and Its Wine
  • Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World
  • Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity
Fear of Food: A History of Why We Worry about What We Eat Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet (California Studies in Food and Culture, 7) Seductive Journey: American Tourists in France from Jefferson to the Jazz Age We'll Always Have Paris: American Tourists in France since 1930 Paradox of Plenty

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