Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table” as Want to Read:
The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  3,281 ratings  ·  546 reviews
When award-winning (and working-class) journalist Tracie McMillan saw foodies swooning over $9 organic tomatoes, she couldn't help but wonder: What about the rest of us? Why do working Americans eat the way we do? And what can we do to change it? To find out, McMillan went undercover in three jobs that feed America, living and eating off her wages in each. Reporting from C ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Scribner (first published February 21st 2012)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,281 ratings  ·  546 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table
The author is a journalist. Maybe her metier is short pieces, it's certainly not books. It could be that she is an interesting person, but in this book she whines, is lazy and puts her personal life above the important subject she is researching. If the book had been better written and not so much about the author, then I wouldn't have known about her lack of rigour in researching the American Way of Eating.

The premise is that she will work at all jobs connected with the food industry for two m
Aug 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: irritating

I started reading this book after being intrigued a Salon piece written by a journalist (Tracie McMillan) who goes undercover to investigate the field-to-plate journey of food in America. I enjoyed Nickel and Dimed and I found the article well written and intriguing, so I was looking forward to this deeper picture of America’s relationship with food this book would provide.

However, I wish I had not wasted my time. White female privileged smug middle-class journalist Tracie McMillan decides to go
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
The American Way of Eating is a supremely aggravating book. Tracie McMillan goes undercover to learn more about the American food industry at various parts of the process, at a farm, grocery store and chain restaurant. This is an important topic that needs to be told, but the author is not quite up to the task.

She is not hardy enough to handle farm work, so those chapters tend to be more about her physical condition than the work itself. Again at Wal-Mart, where she works as stock clerk, she
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
I always thought the food at Applebees tasted like plastic. Now I know why! I haven't eaten there in years and now I won't ever again.

I already knew Wal-mart was evil and this just confirmed it. I never shop there. The Waltons are rich enough.

And, the way the migrant workers are treated and paid is shameful. Ms McMillan said it would cost the average American family $16 per year to increase their wages by 40%. I think most people could handle that.

But, I really do have to take issue with somethi
hmmm. one of the key rules of writing book reviews is to review the book you actually read & not the book you wish that book had been. i admit that this book was not what i expected it to be. i saw the title & read that it was an expose of the american food system. i was expecting something informational & sociological--kind of like all the books i have been reading about the baby industrial complex, but about food. instead, i got a bizarre stunt memoir by a well-educated young woman/freelance j ...more
McMillan is trying to do two things at once. First, she's tracking the life cycle of food in America by taking jobs on a farm, at a grocery store, and in a restaurant. Secondly, she's exploring the challenges that these workers face when they try to eat fresh, healthy food on their incomes. From her experiences, she hopes to learn more about how food gets to your table, why it costs what it does, and why so many of us seem to be living on Little Debbie and Chef Boyardee.

It's good, but it doesn'
Apr 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book clearly stated a couple facts that I "knew" to be true but hadn't ever articulated in my own head. The most striking was a response to the argument that the French spend a greater proportion of their income on food because they just appreciate it so much more than (bovine, tasteless) mainstream Americans. McMillan addresses this squarely by explaining how French people also have to spend much less than Americans for their health care, child care, and other government benefits, and when ...more
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
i'm stil pulling my own thoughts together on this essential and hugely enjoyabe book. It will change foodwriting if we let it. In the meantime, the review that hits a lot of the points I'd want to make has already been written by the man who spent 10 years as the editor of the New York Times Book Review. Please check this out.

Before the Food Arrives on Your Plate, So Much Goes on Behind the Scenes
Published: February 20, 2012

One of the first things to like about Tracie McMillan,
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, foodie
I picked this book up only because the author was attacked by Rush Limbaugh. Just days after his infamous attack on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, he attacked Tracie McMillian. Her crime - being a single, white, educated female. Oh the horror!!!

So for once in my life I can say thank you Rush. I really enjoyed this book. I was expecting something dry and academic but instead it is spicy read! Ms. McMillian is a journalist so her writing style is very easy and breezy.

She spent a year underc
Nov 20, 2013 rated it liked it
McMillan's writing is sometimes a little sludgy and redundant, but her message is strong. A century of industrial infrastructure has created the eating habits we're entrenched in today, and until fresh produce becomes accessible, affordable, and practical for all lifestyles, eating healthy will never win over affordable, convenient, and readily-available processed foods. Until now, I hadn't considered that fresh produce really is difficult to find in some urban areas, where there's one grocery s ...more
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food-studies
Reading Nickel and Dimed my first semester of college changed the way I thought about the working poor and minimum wage labor in the US. Tracie McMillan takes a similar - and equally powerful and effective - approach in the American Way of Eating, revealing something I already felt passionately about - everyone wants good food; everyone just can't easily access it.

I found the section on working at Applebee's to be the most interesting; especially her claim that people don't eat there for the fo
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
In 2009, journalist Tracie McMillan decided to go undercover into the world of food... she worked as a farm worker in California...harvesting grapes, sorting peaches and cutting garlic. She spent months working in the produce section of a Detroit Walmart; and finally, she worked in the kitchen of an Applebees restaurant in New York City. Ms. McMillan chose Applebees because it is the biggest casual dining restaurant in America and it isn't synonymous with what people generally consider fast food ...more
Sep 21, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book was just so blah. I loved the articles gleaned from this book that I read on Slate or Salon and thought the whole book would be as interesting a read. Boy was I wrong. She didn't really connect me to any of the people she met other than in the most superficial way.

For me, in the end what could have been a fascinating book ended up being a narrative that was so dull and largely unmoving. I think one could envision this book as two in one - one book deals with the mechanics of the mass p
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
Similar in style to Nickle and Dimed, and once again, I struggle through another elitist scribe. I don't know why I read these! I keep hoping to find some real answers to serious concerns, but instead get rants on the evils of capitalism.
I found a few things odd. When did she work at Walmart? In 1970? I worked there in the 90's and do not recall having to ticket items. Also, I had pretty good benefits. Health insurance for part time, stock options, pizza parties and really nice managers. Does
Sep 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Another "undercover" memoir, this time focused on the food industry. The author picks garlic and grapes in the fields of California, works in the produce and grocery sections at Walmart, and is an expediter at Applebee's.

She comes away from her experiences with a call to action: people need to learn how to cook. It's healthier to cook and less expensive than it is to eat out. The perception that fresh food is more expensive and harder to cook than processed food is wrong.

I agree with the above
Moira Russell
The money quote on all the blurbs is that this book is like Barbara Ehrenreich's classic Nickel and Dimed, but it's unfortunately much more like that worthy book's disappointing successor, Bait and Switch. It's not bad (except for the gratingly clunky prose style), but I wouldn't really recommend it. ...more
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
EVERYONE needs to read this book. It goes from the fields, to the store, to the restaurant.

Farm workers are horrendously underpaid for doing hard, manual labor. And are cheated out of their money by less than scrupulous employers. Due to lack of money ($26/day for 9 hours of work) they live in overcrowded shacks. Nothing like standing on the edge of the field while it's being crop dusted, then going right back to work!

The produce on the shelves is probably not very fresh.

The crap coming from
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is in between a Michael Pollan book that looks at our food from its source to the plate and a Barbara Ehrenreich book that looks at the lives of low wage workers. In other words, I learned a lot by reading this book and strongly recommend it to anyone interested in food and food workers.

The beginning of the book describes how, author Tracie McMillan, went to California to work in various places as farm worker. Her first job was picking grapes, which she found took more skill than she h
Paul Pessolano
“The American Way of Eating” by Tracie McMillan, published by Scribner.

Category – Sociology

Tracie McMillan went undercover in farm fields, Walmart, and Applebee’s in an effort to explore the lack of fresh produce in our diets and what we eat and why.

The first part of the book has Tracie working as a farm hand alongside the immigrant farm workers in California. Although she does not bring any new problems in the industry, she does remind us of the plight of these workers.

Her next job was at a Wal
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This struck me as a well-researched book (it has footnotes and endnotes after all). It was also well-written, and for me at least, it was also a page-turner. That's a winning combination.

McMillan does what I think has been missing in a lot of food-lit - in that in addition to writing about how food gets on our table, and touching on the whole foodie thing - she writes about middle America, and how middle America eats. She is a former poverty beat reporter, so that's not to say she doesn't discus
May 15, 2012 rated it liked it
There's a lot of information here, much of it new to me. I knew, f'rinstance, that most people in the US have abysmal diets. I wasn't clear on some of the reasons why- including the fact that lots of people just plain never learn to cook from scratch and are flummoxed by a pile of ingredients with no instructions attached. This book also reinforced my resolve to never shop in Walmart or eat in chain restaurants.

I enjoyed McMillan's writing style, which was journalistic without being impersonal.
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
I think calling this undercover journalism is a stretch--it was a diary of personal experience with some footnotes. There were some interesting anecdotes and facts, but I never really felt like the point she was trying to make came together. Yes, there are problems with how food is grown, harvested, sold, and eaten this country, but I didn't feel much more enlightened about any of those issues, other then how the author "felt" about them, at the end of this book.
Jun 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Part anecdotal recount of a year spent working undercover at several stops along the U.S. food chain, part numbers-laden analysis of immigrant rights, labor politics, poverty, urban decay and growth and gentrification, and, of course, said food chain, "The American Way of Eating" took me a long time to read because it was like taking an entire class. McMillan is an accessible writer, and has good timing for switching from dry history and stats-quoting to harrowing stories of working the Valentin ...more
Aug 11, 2012 rated it liked it
My opinion of Tracie McMillan's book of investigative-journalism veered wildly as I read of her semi-undercover adventures on the front lines of American food: its production (she goes among the migrant workers on mega-farms in California), its distribution (she stocks produce at a WalMart outside of Detroit), and preparation (she gets a job putting the finishes on plates at a Flatbush Applebee's). What I liked was some of the big picture stuff, like the astonishing 25% market share that WalMart ...more
Maria Cunningham
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
The American Way of Eating is a groundbreaking book that exposes why Americans eat the way they do, where we get our food, and why food is priced the way it is. Many Americans know that the processed food we eat is not good for us but we still eat it anyway. What the author, Tracie McMillan, strives to uncover is why healthy food is a luxury for the average American. McMillan went undercover working as a grape picker, peach picker, garlic cutter, Wal-Mart produce clerk and a line cook at Applebe ...more
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
I thought I would enjoy this book much more than I did because the subject matter is very interesting and relevant. I read Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed" book a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, and unfortunately McMillan's book seemed like a poor copy of it. Although it was supposed to be about food and the issues pertaining to food consumption in America, somehow it seemed to miss the mark. Obviously, because she went undercover and worked in various sectors of the food indus ...more
Feb 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wine-and-food
fairly informative book on how americans eat, explaining the infrastructure of distribution, growing, selling, munching. author illustrates (and learns a lot) by working "under cover" at walmart (twice), in the fields of california, picking grapes, sorting peaches, and harvesting/cutting garlic, and at applebees in nyc. one interesting thing, french folks spend about twice the percentage on food a year as usaers, but usaers spend about twice as much as french on healthcare, childcare, education, ...more
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: worth-sharing
Here's my thing: I just like KNOWING stuff, particularly if it is relevant (though little considered) stuff like what I'm eating/breathing/drinking or other daily tasks assumed or taken for granted. On that count, I particularly enjoyed this book. There's a nearly-balanced blend of personal experience with research (READ: loads of footnotes). It lacks the gross-out factor of other recent hits like "Fast Food Nation" because the goal here isn't shock value or surprise or disgust (at least in the ...more
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book reminds me of Nickel and Dimed, as the author goes incognito to explore food as it travels from the farm to stores (Wal-Mart) and to restaurants (Applebee's). The lingering question asked over and over again is why there are still many places in the US where fresh food is not available or extremely limited? Or why do poor urban areas not only have less fresh food available, but it also often costs more than at stores in affluent areas. There are no easy answers, but this books provides ...more
Wendy Welch
Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it
All I can say is, I really wanted to like this book, and I did get some useful information from it, but I had to force myself to keep reading. Which makes me feel guilty because it's got important stats and some poignant stories. But it's not .... compelling. And I somehow, as a reader, feel this is my failure, not the author's, because social justice in the food chain is important, particularly in Europe and the States and Canada.

But there it is; I didn't finish it, and I'm not telling friends
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane
  • Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America
  • Year of No Sugar
  • Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit
  • The New Detox Diet: The Complete Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, and Detox Plans
  • The Grandmother (Babička)
  • Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala
  • Stranger (En espanol): El desafio de un inmigrante latino en la era de Trump
  • Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum-Security Detention
  • Eva's Story: A Survivor's Tale by the Step-Sister of Anne Frank
  • Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft
  • Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen's Guide to Community Supported Agriculture
  • Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China
  • Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World
  • Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale
  • The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story
  • The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books
  • Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal
See similar books…
A working-class transplant from rural Michigan, Brooklyn-based writer Tracie McMillan is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table. Mixing immersive reporting, undercover investigative techniques and “moving first-person narrative” (Wall Street Journal), McMillan’s book argues for thinking of fresh, ...more

News & Interviews

You might know comedian Colin Jost from his work as the co-anchor of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, or perhaps you know him as Scarlett Joha...
71 likes · 24 comments
“Today, if you pay a[n US] dollar for a pound of apples in the supermarketm only about six cents covers the farmwork used to get it there; (...)” 3 likes
More quotes…