How did white bread, once an icon of American progress, become "white trash"? In this lively history of bakers, dietary crusaders, and social reformers, Aaron Bobrow-Strain shows us that what we think about the humble, puffy loaf says a lot about who we are and what we want our society to look like.
White Bread teaches us that when Americans debate what one should eat, they are also wrestling with larger questions of race, class, immigration, and gender. As Bobrow-Strain traces the story of bread, from the first factory loaf to the latest gourmet pain au levain, he shows how efforts to champion "good food" reflect dreams of a better society - even as they reinforce stark social hierarchies.
In the early 20th century, the factory-baked loaf heralded a bright new future, a world away from the hot, dusty, "dirty" bakeries run by immigrants. Fortified with vitamins, this bread was considered the original "superfood" and even marketed as patriotic - while food reformers painted white bread as a symbol of all that was wrong with America. The history of America's 100-year-long love-hate relationship with white bread reveals a lot about contemporary efforts to change the way we eat.
Today, the alternative food movement favors foods deemed ethical and environmentally correct to eat, and fluffy industrial loaves are about as far from slow, local, and organic as you can get. Still, the beliefs of early twentieth-century food experts and diet gurus, that getting people to eat a certain food could restore the nation's decaying physical, moral, and social fabric, will sound surprisingly familiar. Given that open disdain for "unhealthy" eaters and discrimination on the basis of eating habits grow increasingly acceptable, White Bread is a timely and important examination of what we talk about when we talk about food.
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Balanced but cautious
Perhaps; however some of his pronunciations were glaringly wrong. Especially mention of Albert Camus (mispronounced as Kay-muss).
Concise and focused history of bread (homemade, industrial, and artisinal), told through the prism of social history and what those loaves represented. Definitely interesting and telling to see how ideas of what was healthy and wholesome morphed over time, and how our daily bread could represent everything from racial purity (and fear of its disappearance) to the fitness of citizens to fight. The author obviously loves the subject and is quite balanced in his recounting of bread's social and nutritional history, showing rationality when evaluating both science and junk science. His take on the gluten-free movement and its current dearth of scientific proof (more anecdotal evidence than double-blind studies) typifies the balance he tries to bring to the topics. Overall, the author is incredibly cautious, being sure to temper descriptions of the various food movements (especially the more recent ones) by granting that they often came from a desire to do good but acknowledging that they nonetheless often end up being elitist. While his sympathies lie with such movements, he sees the hypocrisy and, while clearly a bit uncomfortable with industrial bread, also sees how it is not all bad.
- S. Yates
interesting commodity history of white bread
Wonder bread for its squishy whiteness.
Kris Koscheski has a nice reading voice but there are some weird mispronunciations that I find distracting. One example would be "matilaristic" for "militaristic." He also mispronounces Michael Pollan's name several times.