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

The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan
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Jun 08, 2012

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Read in June, 2012

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 Valentine's Day rush at the Bed-Stuy Applebee's in Creole Brooklyn. Some information that I'll keep in my back pocket, other than the broad sense I have that I am entirely right not to shop at WalMart ever, at all, working in fields is hard work and has racism and xenophobia built right on into the deal, and Applebee's has nary a fresh item between its hallowed walls:
-Citizens of the US catch a lot of flak for having "no food culture," based in large part on the fact that we spend a lower percentage of our incomes on food than, say, the French. But here's the thing: we have to pay for communication, higher education, transportation, and health care with our incomes, too; THE FRENCH DO NOT. So cut us a freaking break.
-WalMart is so fabulously successful mostly because they own their own distribution system, too. The money saved on contracting with, packing, shipping, and selling groceries themselves means they can ask for lower prices that then drive smaller local businesses under.
-Also, WalMart throws away a billion pounds of food away a year.
-Also, their food is never, ever, ever fresh.
-Speaking of which, Applebees straight up LIES about when their food expires. And everything comes out of a plastic bag. The expo person is pulling flakes of melted plastic out of your vegetables until the second they are delivered to your table.
-Detroit is considered such an infamous food desert in large part because most of the massive amount of food that DOES come into the city is shipped out immediately, as in, within twelve hours of arriving at the produce terminal, to the suburbs. It's TRYING not to be a food desert. The urban gardening scene is growing, in more ways than one.
-Sexism: TOTALLY EXISTS IN THE FOOD SYSTEM. WHO KNEW?!


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