A provocative yet grounded look at the U.S. food industry. Though the prospect of finding quality food products may prove...

REAL FOOD/FAKE FOOD

WHY YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE EATING AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

An investigation of the American food industry, providing examples of authentic and fraudulent products and how best to differentiate between the two.

In his solidly researched new book, USA Today food and travel columnist Olmsted (Nonfiction Writing/Dartmouth Coll.; Getting into Guinness: One Man's Longest, Fastest, Highest Journey Inside the World’s Most Famous Record Book, 2008), a well-traveled and knowledgeable food writer, takes readers on an enlightening but frequently disturbing culinary journey. While providing fascinating insights into where and how some of the most delicious food products are produced, the author also reveals how often these are imitated to detrimental effect. “When you choose to eat Real Food, your immediate benefit is that it tastes good,” writes Olmsted. “Your long-term benefit is that it is almost always healthier….Conversely, when you choose—or are duped into eating—Fake Foods, you usually get things that taste worse, are less healthful, and sometimes truly dangerous. Eating them supports production methods that are often unsustainable and sometimes illegal.” Beginning in Parma, Italy, the author emphasizes the importance of terroir in the establishment of the quality and character of individual foods. Three basic products have been carefully produced for several generations in this region and consistently meet the highest quality standards—parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto—while the various knockoffs always fail to compare. In later chapters, Olmsted explores specific products and industries, such as olive oil and truffle oil, champagne, beef, wine, cheese, and possibly the scariest and certainly most confusing of all: the fishing industry. Regarding seafood, writes the author, “in many major U.S. cities, your chances of getting what you ordered—and paid for—in both restaurants and stores are slim at best.”

A provocative yet grounded look at the U.S. food industry. Though the prospect of finding quality food products may prove increasingly challenging for most consumers, Olmsted provides encouraging tips to help navigate the many obstacles.

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-421-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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