Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America (California Studies in Food and Culture, 8)” as Want to Read:
Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America (California Studies in Food and Culture, 8)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  149 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
In this sweeping history of food and eating in modern America, Harvey Levenstein explores the social, economic, and political factors that have shaped the American diet since 1930.
Paperback, Revised, 362 pages
Published May 30th 2003 by University of California Press (first published 1988)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Paradox of Plenty, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Paradox of Plenty

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanKitchen Confidential by Anthony BourdainAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara KingsolverFast Food Nation by Eric SchlosserIn Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Food-Related Non-Fiction
103rd out of 759 books — 1,407 voters
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanFast Food Nation by Eric SchlosserIn Defense of Food by Michael PollanSalt by Mark KurlanskyCurry by Lizzie Collingham
Books about Food
174th out of 174 books — 92 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 995)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 29, 2013 Gretchen rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, grad-school, thesis
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.
Jan 11, 2015 Adam rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 31, 2012 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food-history
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
Jan 27, 2011 sdw rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 09, 2008 Dina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jennifer Heise
Dec 19, 2014 Jennifer Heise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food-history, history
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.
Jul 09, 2008 Nicole G. rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
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.
Dec 14, 2010 Heather rated it liked it
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.
Nick Rasmussen
Mar 14, 2016 Nick Rasmussen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good on changing American tastes in food, especially the restaurant and other upper middle class experience. A little weak on the health and medical side, especially when it comes to expert thoinking.
Jun 20, 2011 Toni rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-owned
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
May 28, 2007 Beth Barnett rated it really liked it
Sequel to Revolution at the Table, discusses food policy during the Depression and changes in American foodways through the 20th Century.
Duncan Mchale
Sep 26, 2011 Duncan Mchale marked it as to-read
Recommended by Brent Cunningham in a Lapham's Quarterly podcast 7/25/11.
Aug 24, 2009 Lanny rated it really liked it
Very interesting if you are a food addict like me...
Aug 17, 2012 Heather added it
Shelves: 2012
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mukund Ravindran
Mukund Ravindran marked it as to-read
Oct 19, 2016
Dani Esten
Dani Esten marked it as to-read
Oct 19, 2016
Kirsten Mcallister
Kirsten Mcallister marked it as to-read
Oct 17, 2016
Zippy :D
Zippy :D marked it as to-read
Oct 19, 2016
Jonathan marked it as to-read
Oct 14, 2016
Emma Huntress
Emma Huntress marked it as to-read
Oct 10, 2016
Claire marked it as to-read
Oct 13, 2016
Emm ☿ Synklaire
Emm ☿ Synklaire marked it as to-read
Oct 06, 2016
Doug rated it liked it
Oct 05, 2016
Brooke marked it as to-read
Oct 04, 2016
Selena marked it as to-read
Oct 02, 2016
Kathleen Sandusky
Kathleen Sandusky marked it as to-read
Oct 01, 2016
Arunima Chattopadhyay
Arunima Chattopadhyay marked it as to-read
Sep 24, 2016
Christine Giordani
Christine Giordani marked it as to-read
Sep 17, 2016
Kuva marked it as to-read
Sep 13, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 33 34 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Cultural Politics of Food and Eating: A Reader
  • Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism
  • Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back
  • Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History
  • Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly
  • Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism
  • Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All
  • Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food & People
  • All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?
  • Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal
  • Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods
  • Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty
  • Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took on the Food Industry
  • The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We Can Do to Replace Them
  • Stuffed And Starved: Markets, Power And The Hidden Battle For The World Food System
  • Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It
  • White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf
  • Food Politics

Other Books in the Series

California Studies in Food and Culture (1 - 10 of 60 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)
  • Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism
  • 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

Share This Book