JUNK FOOD, FAST FOOD, HEALTH FOOD: What America Eats and Why by Lila Perl

JUNK FOOD, FAST FOOD, HEALTH FOOD: What America Eats and Why

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Perl's survey of contemporary American food and eating draws heavily on recent popular literature criticizing the preponderance of salt, sugar, and questionable additives in our diet and exposing monopolistic industry control of our food from farm to supermarket. On her own, however, she is unable to apply similar analysis in her chapter on the rise of fast-food chains, but notes merely that the new on-the-go family seems to go for this way of eating. As in Slumps, Grunts, and Snickerdoodles and Hunter Stew and Hangtown Fry, her earlier volumes on Colonial and pioneer eating habits, there is some attempt to relate developments in eating patterns to general social history. The connections drawn, though, are more simplistic than incisive. Perl names more specific additives than does Pringle in Lives at Stake (below), and she appends an often-reprinted additive chart. However, on this and other food safety issues (such as saccharin) she is, again, less incisive than Pringle. She has a tendency to slide over small distinctions-confusing, for example, the FDA RDAs on food labels with the official NRC RDAs they are based on. She includes a chapter on meat-eating and vegetarianism, essentially a repeat of her vegetarian book (p. 1358, J-306), and a general listing of ""what we should eat,"" which is essentially a summary of the USDA food groups--but doesn't attempt to reconcile or relate the two. Still, if these flaws make the book less sharp than it should be, there is nothing basically wrong with the picture Perl gives us. Libraries satisfied with the first two volumes will no doubt want this to complete the series. As in the previous volumes, a variety of recipes is included. About a third are for ""health food"" sweets and the rest a wholesome international sampling of breads, salads, and vegetarian or chicken main dishes.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Clarion/Houghton Mifflin