A Square Meal

  • by Jane Ziegelman, Andrew Coe
  • Narrated by Susan Ericksen
  • 10 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The decade-long Great Depression, a period of shifts in the country's political and social landscape, forever changed the way America eats. Before 1929, America's relationship with food was defined by abundance. But the collapse of the economy, in both urban and rural America, left a quarter of all Americans out of work and undernourished - shattering long-held assumptions about the limitlessness of the national larder.
In 1933, as women struggled to feed their families, President Roosevelt reversed long-standing biases toward government-sponsored "food charity". For the first time in American history, the federal government assumed, for a while, responsibility for feeding its citizens. The effects were widespread. Championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, "home economists" who had long fought to bring science into the kitchen rose to national stature. Through the Bureau of Home Economics, these women led a sweeping campaign to instill dietary recommendations, the forerunners of today's Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
At the same time, expanding conglomerates introduced packaged and processed foods, which led to a new American cuisine based on speed and convenience. This movement toward a homogenized national diet sparked a revival of American regional cooking that continues to this day.

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What the Critics Say

"A highly readable, illuminating look at the many ramifications of feeding the hungry in hard times." (Kirkus)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Disjointed, Repetitive & Rambling

I started this book with high hopes. The beginning was excellent and the early stories were fascinating. This area of history is important and has much to offer to the understanding of current day approaches to food, assistance and hunger in America.

My problem rests in the nonlinear approach to the writing. Rather than start at the earliest date--the late 1890s and work forward through WWI and into the 1930s in a systematic way--the book jumps randomly through history. We hear about 1918, then 1930, then 1895, then it's back to 1917, then 1931. The authors circle around repeatedly in time and this becomes frustrating and irritating to follow.

What's more perplexing is that there seems to be no reason for this scattered approach. The stories are often repeated and characters reintroduced as new--as if we have not just spent an hour hearing about these events and people already. Odd. This may be due to two authors with differing styles not reading clearly what the other has already written? I will never know. After almost six hours of listening I threw in the towel.

The narration while clear was really too slow. I increased the speed to 1.25 and that was enough to make the reading sound almost normal. Not perfect, but tolerable.

What I would like is that both of the authors and all the editors, publishers and production people involved sit in a room together and be forced to listen to the book. I have a strong feeling that there might be many red faces in the room. Hearing the book read aloud would make very clear the extreme level of rambling and general disorganization present in the writing.

Overall, disappointing for what should have been a scholarly and important entry in the American History genre. If you can stand the nonlinear approach and repetition there are some interesting parts. For me it was maddening.
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- sara

Incredible Insight into the Birth of US Nutrition

Where does A Square Meal rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This book, though particularly lengthy, never failed to amaze me... It is a glaring example of how looking to the past can help us better understand our present. Understanding the role of nutrition, eating, and the changes in dietary culture in the first half of the 20th century helped me make sense of current attitudes about such topics. I especially appreciated that the author included some culinary histories of urbanites, rural dwellers, and minority groups alike.


What other book might you compare A Square Meal to and why?

Strangely, the only thing that comes to mind is the reading material of my coursework on disability and mainstream attitudes that people must 'earn' or be 'worthy of' handouts, even when economic opportunity is plagued with absence


Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

This is the kind of book you nibble away at while cooking and cleaning over the course of weeks. It's relaxing and at times charming


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- Mariel

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-20-2016
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio