Cookbook author and food writer Ruhlman (In Short Measures: Three Novellas, 2015, etc.) explores the evolution of the American grocery store and how it has affected what we eat in this country.
The author uses two of his Midwestern hometown grocery chains, Heinen’s and Fazio’s, and his memories of his father’s love of food and grocery shopping as the foundation for this engaging narrative. While he notes that many other writers have covered the history of the grocery store, the broken industrial food production system, and the nutritional benefits of various foods, Ruhlman delivers “a reported reflection on the grocery store in America, and an expression of my own love, anger, opinions and concerns over what is in them, how it got there, and what it all means.” He believes that grocery stores are more than just a place to buy food; they reflect both positive and negative aspects of many areas of American culture. His lively story combines personal anecdotes and family memories with accounts of his travels around the country and interviews with various grocery store owners, medical professionals, and suppliers—e.g., Brian and Kathleen Bean, the founders and owners of Idaho’s Lava Lakes Land & Livestock, purveyors of top-notch lambs. The author also talked to food entrepreneurs working on new ways of growing our food, such as Freight Farms, a company that converts shipping containers into greenhouses. Ruhlman delves into the importance of hydroponics for growing produce, and he tracks the evolution of the prepared food craze and the importance of learning to cook and enjoy real, nutritious food. The author sprinkles in just enough pertinent references to relevant food-related titles to keep the narrative moving along at a quick pace.
An illuminating journey through and behind the grocery store, which, “perhaps more than any other mechanism of change…has the power to shape how we raise and produce food in America.”