Our nightstands are loaded with books to read and our laptops are packed with websites to explore and unpack some wisdom about the global food supply chain.
In the 1930s, Americans who were used to abundance were suddenly on food rations. Jane Zeigelman and Andrew Coe show how home economists came to the rescue with nutritional science, and government rose to the occasion with food assistance programs. Alas, some of the food promoted by the government was dismal: liver loaf (made palatable by a the addition of ketchup). Today’s MyPlate guidelines may be unimaginative, at least liver loaf is absent.
Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, From the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First
Frank Trentmann examines how and why we consume things, including food. He explains the closed-loop economies of company towns: companies provided jobs, housing and food through one supply chain. He illustrates how two trends — wellness culture and the rise of food prep outside the home — opened opportunities for new food products. Without directly addressing how the global food supply chain gets all those things to consumers, he offers a wide-ranging discussion of why we consume things.
In Jonathan Rees’ history of America’s cold chain, he shows how refrigeration influenced our diets and improved food safety—from ice harvesters in 19th century New England to Kelvinator’s Foodarama in the 1960s (the largest home refrigerator ever built). He explores refrigeration’s impact on the environment, illuminating tradeoffs with technologies that limit food waste by using energy resources. He also suggests ways to make the cold chain more energy efficient.
Michael Ruhlman takes readers through the history of food retailing to an evaluation of today’s grocery stores. He explains the complications of processing, labeling and distributing food to a population obsessed with convenience, unable to cook and confused by conflicting food claims. In the end, he shares his view of the future of retailing with consumers who demand more processed food produced on a smaller scale. Look for surprising news about the history of food delivery.
This new book by the world-famous chef Massimo Bottura contains recipes that address food waste. Dishes created by Bottura and his friends (such as Chef Alain Ducasse) focus on low-cost but tasty ways to prepare meals with minimal waste.
Films and Television
If you want to study food, there’s no better place to go than Italy and the Gustolab International Institute for Food Studies (GLi). As the first center of study and research in Italy dedicated to academic programs on the theme of Food Studies, GLi offers study abroad programs in food, media and nutrition. Check out their website for academic affiliations that may provide academic credit for Gustolab’s program. While you’re in Italy, enjoy some of the gelato shops featured in the first issue of Food+City magazine.