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Fresh: A Perishable History

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  81 ratings  ·  18 reviews
That rosy tomato perched on your plate in December is at the end of a great journey--not just over land and sea, but across a vast and varied cultural history. This is the territory charted in "Fresh." Opening the door of an ordinary refrigerator, it tells the curious story of the quality stored inside: freshness.

We want fresh foods to keep us healthy, and to connect us to
Hardcover, 408 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Belknap Press
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Susan Wittig Albert
For most of her life, my grandmother kept her milk, eggs, and butter in the spring house on her Missouri farm. Through the 1940s, my mother subscribed to a twice-weekly delivery of ice for her icebox, and in 1951, bought a Crosley "Shelvadore." I have a refrigerator-freezer that makes ice and dispenses cold water, and another freezer for garden vegetables and fruits. Times have changed.

In Fresh: A Perishable History, Susanne Freidberg opens the refrigerator door on a fascinating aspect of our mo
I wrote a review and, not for the first time, exited the d*** page before hitting the "save" button, which is outta sight on my screen. Am I peeved? Yes! Was this a good book? Yes!!

This book is well worth your time, if you are interested in the background of your food. How did we come to our current obsession with Fresh Food? And what does that mean, anyway? Ms. Freidberg provides answers to these (producers and shippers had a lot to do with it, and it means what you want it to mean!) and many o
Freidberg is a great writer, which is not a given in scholarly prose, even scholarly prose like this book, which is clearly designed to sell to a popular audience as well. To give you a sense of Freidberg's wit and enviable economy of expression, a line from her chapter on milk: "The great diversity of such products (France alone famously boasts several hundred cheeses) shows that milk is as fertile a medium for human inventiveness as it is for microbial growth." I mean, read it and weep, all yo ...more
It's imossible to read about food without tripping over an article lauding the local, fresh food movement. Know your farmer, know your food. Know your food, know yourself. It's some kind of 21st century zen koan. Heck, Subway sells sandwiches loaded with sodium and fat with the motto "Eat Fresh". Fresh is good.

But what does "fresh" mean? It's easy to picture: Leafy greens, crunchy fruit, vibrantly colored meat. But investigate that food some, and you learn uncomfortable truths: Our food depends
I found this book interesting. Freidberg looks in-depth into our cultural notions of freshness and highlights particular foodstuffs in her exploration: beef, fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk and fish. I'd never really thought about the fast array of factors that figure into the concept of "freshness" -- time, temperature, cultural expectations, government policy, transportation, market demands, advertising, public health... It's a lot to digest (ahem) -- any one of those topics would have been fodd ...more
I wrote a review of this book for PopMatters:

Here's the beginning...

Freidberg sets out two premises that played a large role in directing her inquiry into the changing meaning of freshness. First, there’s no one-size-fits-all definition of freshness. Second, people from different backgrounds, cultures, and geographic regions value freshness in ways that are hard to predict or understand. Increasingly, marketing plays a distressing role in this shifting value system, changing that definit
Margaret Sankey
More World of Food reading: in the 1930s, Schraftt's restaurants in New York bragged that the ingredients for a salad had traveled 22,250 miles and were ""fresh from the fields."" This social history takes on the changing meaning of "fresh" (still contentious to the USDA and the orange juice lobby) encompassing nasty 19th century iceboxes and the lazy iceman, Birdseye and the flash freezing process, plastic wrap, the rise and fall of the Salinas Valley "salad bowl", the politics of the Argentine ...more
LiZi Bruklinsk
White braed? what f[k
Aug 15, 2009 Ashley rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
Abandoned. While I thought I was ready to chart the territory covered in "Fresh", I kept nodding off. This is an important, sophisticated account of food history, labor practices, technology, corporations, and consumer food choices; I'll have to come back to it to gain a fuller understanding of 'how the advent of cold storage subverted ideas of freshness, shifted power from consumers and producers to middlemen, and virtually eliminated seasonality'.
Very well done--includes some photos/ads which help make the author's information even more relevant. Who new what terrific health benefits were claimed to have come from iceberg lettuce? What is fresh, really? Should eggs be refrigerated? I loved the old "modern" refrigerators. Can you imagine waiting for that block of ice? From Dairy to produce to meats--we've come along way, baby. Or have we?
Freidberg provides a fascinating history of how refrigeration, and the subsequent expansion of the industrial food system's reach, forever altered not only the world's food supply, but also how consumers view freshness and conceptualize its meaning. She tells this story through a series of mini-histories focusing on specific foods: beef, eggs, fruit, vegetables, milk, and fish.
Fascinating book on how we evolve notions of what's proper to put into our bodies.

You'll learn about how refrigeration was viewed suspiciously around the year 1900, and

Extrapolating from this book, we can expect that society will get over it's irrational fear of GMO foods someday and more technologically advanced foods will be widely accepted by the year 2100.
It's a fascinating journey that Susanne took - The concept of 'freshness' and how it has morphed with time and technology.
Fascinating, well researched history of refrigeration and its effects on how we perceive what "fresh" actually is.
An interesting read. I finished it over a year ago. It didn't really leave an impression.
Jan 08, 2011 C. added it
Shelves: food
Thesis adviser. I liked French Beans book much more.
I definitely think twice about prepackaged baby lettuce...
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