On Our Loading Dock

On Our Loading Dock

Our nightstands are loaded with books to read, and our laptops are packed with websites to explore and unpack wisdom about the global food supply chain.


The Omega Principle (Paul Greenberg)

The author of several books about our seafood, Paul Greenberg takes us for a deep dive into the merits, demerits and challenges of Omega 3, a nutritionally beneficial fatty acid found in seafood. As you might imagine, the consequences ripple right through the seafood supply chain.

American Catch (Paul Greenberg)

In another book, Greenberg uses stories about three types of seafood — Eastern oysters, sockeye salmon and shrimp — to chart the rise and fall of American fisheries.

The Plant Paradox (Steven Gundry)

If you think eating bread makes you fat, you might find an argument in this book to support your theory. There’s lots of debate between these covers, and nutritionist Steven Gundry will give you reason to reconsider the science behind most diets.


The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America (Marc Levinson)

For some history about mom-and-pop stores, in the context of the grocery juggernaut that was A&P (aka The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company), read Marc Levinson’s book about the grocery giant. A&P threatened Main Street stores long before anyone had ever heard of Walmart.


Eat This: Our Daily Bread series

We continue to be fans of Jeremy Cherfas’ “Eat This Podcast.” Recently, he explored every angle and story about wheat in at least 31 micro-episodes. You will learn about Red Fife, sourdough, bakeries, mills and more. We love enthusiasm, and Mr. Cherfas’ zeal takes us to a very complicated slice of bread. 

Planet Money

Born out of the financial crisis in 2008, National Public Radio’s podcast about the economics of everything covers food in unexpected ways. From the cost of popcorn in a baseball stadium to the concept of “free” food, Planet Money is full of insights about the role economics plays in how we eat.

Food52’s Burnt Toast

Since 2009, Food52 founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs have curated this community-based trove of kitchen goods and recipes. Their podcast, “Food52’s Burnt Toast,” will elucidate just how your toast burns — and why. Such a simple food, with a complicated twist.


We found another ingredient map in the article “Deconstructing the Environmental Footprint of a Sandwich” in Anthropocene. You may never again order a meat sandwich. Check out the first issue of Food+City for our map of the ingredients for a sandwich made in Austin.


Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown

The passing of food legend Anthony Bourdain is a good reason to review (or re-view) his award-winning Parts Unknown. It’s worth 
reconsidering every episode in appreciation of his close-up view of food and the people around the world who make it.

Ugly Delicious

As our screens flood with documentaries that shame and disgust us, we are ready to see a new take on the food world. David Chang does this with his series about ordinary food made by ordinary people. The series also has helpings of Chang’s personal story about his beginnings as a chef and his conflicted relationship with Korean cuisine.

Water and Power: A California Heist

Food production relies on water. With fires raging in California during the summer of 2018, water resources for firefighters were even more scarce. Long the focus of battles between environmental conservation activists and economic development advocates, water resources are hotly contested. If you want some historical context for this topic, check out the PBS “Cadillac Desert” series, especially “Mulholland’s Dreams.”

On Our Loading Dock: Food System Resources

On Our Loading Dock: Food System Resources

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.


Before the Refrigerator (Jonathan Rees)

Before the refrigerator, there was the icebox. But if you didn’t live in the frozen tundra, getting ice required a complex choreography. Jonathan Rees traces the process of ice harvesting and distribution — a key method of preserving perishable foods — as it evolved in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As the country moved toward mechanical cooling, widely available ice played a vital role in transforming the American diet. (Read Jonathan Rees’s Food+City story about the cold chain.)

Coffee Lids: Peel, Pinch, Pucker, Puncture (Louise Harpman, Scott Specht)

Some things just seem like they were always there, as if no one could possibly have spent time inventing them. The ubiquitous plastic lid on the humble paper coffee cup is just such an item. But take time to consider its nuanced and varied design features, as architects Louise Harpman and Scott Specht have in this delightful mini-primer on industrial design, and you may enjoy your morning joe even more.

Barges and Bread (Di Murrell)

It’s not every day that a historian has lived the life she’s writing about. But for Di Murrell, barging has been her way of life for more than 30 years. Her book looks way back to 13th century London and the history of the grain trade on the Thames. Grains and bread — not coincidentally, a synonym for money — were staples for all citizens because, as a commodity crop, grain was stable, and large quantities could be transported efficiently over even the shallowest waterways. Take a trip back in time with the historian barge master. (Check out our story about the role of barges in moving food throughout history.)

The Flavor Thesaurus (Niki Segnit)

As we investigated IBM’s Chef Watson, another source of clever food pairings sprang to mind: Niki Segnit’s “The Flavor Thesaurus.” Structured like Roget’s classic, the book lists ingredients — such as beets, blueberries, oysters — and offers classic and novel pairings based on flavor themes. Recipes and other suggested preparations are included in the text. It’s a fantastic resource for moving off the beaten path and developing your own recipes.

Fishing Lessons (Kevin Bailey)

Bailey provides a glimpse of the future of the global fishing industry, documenting the rise and fall of fish populations, the loss of indigenous fisheries and the arrival of fish farms. He makes the case for a future seafood industry that includes “new” artisan cultures while incorporating new ways of selling direct to consumers. He says that his book provides “a fine-grained view of the larger issues in the world’s fisheries — too many fishermen with too few fish, conflicts with other resource users, loss of fishing rights and degraded habitats.” There’s room for hope, according to the author.

The Long Haul (Finn Murphy)

Finn Murphy dropped out of college in the late 1980s, much to the chagrin of his parents, and became a long-haul trucker. He’s a furniture mover, but his experience driving the nation’s highways — and navigating the small lanes of Lower Manhattan or the mountain passes in Colorado’s Rockies — runs in parallel to the thousands of other haulers who transport our food, our packages and everything else we buy and ship. This catchy memoir offers multiple tableaux, and lots of juicy slang terms, of one life on the road. (Read about another truck driver, Annette Womack, in our Food Mover story from Issue 2.)


Sourcing Matters

Host Aaron Niederhelman takes listeners with him as he examines problems with and solutions for feeding ourselves into the future. He finds leaders focused on food system reform and reducing environmental impact who tell stories worth pausing for. “Our goal with this show is to celebrate leading voices committed to promoting food values through proper natural resource management,” says the podcast’s website. “It is, after all, the sourcing which matters.”


Rotten (Netflix)

This series of six episodes dives into various parts of the food supply chain, exposing some unsavory realities of the industrial food complex. Mass deaths of honeybees, the plight of peanut farmers in an age of allergies, the economics of dairy farming and the dwindling global fish supply are among the tough topics the filmmakers tackle. It may leave you wanting to move to the country and grow all your own food.


Eaten: The Food History Magazine

Social and economic historian Emelyn Rude launched a new magazine in the fall of 2017 with a focus on the history of food. Filled with luscious eye candy, rediscovered recipes and gastronomic essays, the magazine transports readers through time on a common vehicle — food.

On Our Loading Dock

On Our Loading Dock

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.


A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression

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.

Refrigeration Nation: A History of Ice, Appliances, and Enterprise in America

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.

Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America

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.

Bread is Gold

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.


How I Built This

App developer Apoorva Mehta almost gave up on being an entrepreneur until he figured out what he really wanted to do: find a hassle-free way to buy groceries. Five years after launch, the grocery delivery app Instacart is valued at $3 billion.


Alexis Madrigal covers the world of global shipping in eight episodes. Interviews of tug boat operators and dock workers provide insights into the world of our global supply chain, including the food supply chain. Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Madrigal captures the sounds of shipping.

Can Food Waste Save the World?

This episode covers films, chefs and other projects that are raising awareness about the need to reduce food waste.

 Films and Television


Produced by Anthony Bourdain and co-directed by Anna Chai and Nari Kye, this feature documentary film offers more than the usual mea culpa about food waste. Viewers will see mountains of food waste but also learn how high-end chefs are leading a campaign to use everything the world produces. Massimo Bottura, Dan Barber and Danny Bowien are a few of the chefs that make the case for eating food waste. Look for some innovative ways to cook with all those potato peels and ugly fruit. As Bourdain says in the film, “I’d urge you to look at what you’re eating, instead of looking at waste.”

The Oyster Revival

This new documentary film tells the story of how oysters are critical to the ecology of our coastlines. The increasing consumer demand for oysters of all types is adding pressure to the oyster supply and also adding to the number of producers. See how oyster beds are water filtration systems at the same time as they feed an oyster revival.


The disappearance of fish canneries from our landscape is good news for environmentalists but bad news for those who lose their jobs. This documentary looks at one small town and its loss of jobs and a local fish cannery and how one man attempts to keep the factory open.



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.

On Our Loading Dock

On Our Loading Dock

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.


Fresh, A Perishable History

Suzanne Friedberg reveals the historical and cultural development of what “fresh” means. As early as the 1930s, consumers worried about eating too much processed food. For a fascinating look at how consumers’ thinking about fresh, frozen, canned and “shelf life” has evolved, this book lays it all out. How we feed cities will build on these histories.

Door to Door, The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation

Edward Humes reveals surprising details about how stuff moves around the world. One highlight: You’ll get an inside look at the logistics of Domino’s Pizza, which has been in the food delivery business for decades. Blue Apron and Instacart, take note.

Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable

Baylen J. Linnekin examines the unintended consequences of well-intentioned food regulations. For example, how grading standards and labeling requirements contribute to the food waste we’re trying to reduce. When was the last time you met a lawyer who argued for fewer regulations, and simpler ones at that?

Feeding Gotham, The Political Economy and Geography of Food in New York, 1790 to 1860

Gergely Baics uses sophisticated maps to tell the history of New York’s food system over time, showing how market spaces took shape and how food producers such as bakers dispersed themselves over the landscape. It’s dense, but if you want to know why your grocery store is where it is today, study the maps and footnotes.


Heritage Radio Network

This Brooklyn radio station makes podcasts that explain, celebrate and challenge our views of the food system. “How Great Cities Are Fed,” moderated by Karen Karp, includes a conversation with Food+City Director Robyn Metcalfe about food logistics and the supply chain. “What Doesn’t Kill You” offers views of food system experts, including Baylen Linnekin, who explores all the complications that occur when trying to feed the world.


Host Tina Antolini explores southern immigrant food culture, including both new and old food traditions. The podcast digs into lesser-known corners of the region, challenges stereotypes, documents new dynamics and gives voice to the unsung folk who grow, cook and serve our daily meals.

Eat This Podcast

This podcast transcends the obvious to explore how the food we eat influences and is influenced by history, archaeology, trade, chemistry, economics, geography, evolution, religion and more.

Films and Television

Tsukiji Wonderland

Soon after it was announced in 2014 that the cramped Tsukiji market would be moving to a larger site in Tokyo’s Toyosu neighborhood, filmmaker Naotaro Endo began shooting to commemorate this institution. Interviews with vendors plus commentary from food celebrities make this film a feast for sushi lovers everywhere.

Flowing Data: A Century of Ocean Shipping Animated

Ben Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, created this seasonal, animated map of shipping paths to show how goods moved from 1750 to 1850 — long before the Panama or Suez canals opened. Imagine how those two shortcuts changed the way food moved around the world.

Food Forward (PBS)

This series appeals to our enthusiasm for visionaries and innovation within the food system. One episode suggests we might consider foraging in the woods for our food. Another visits Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab to hear from a food psychologist about how we make food choices.


BLDGBLOG (“Building blog”)

Geoff Manaugh is a writer and futurist who connects technology and humans in a way that will get you thinking about the world around you, including food logistics. Grasping the urban built environment is essential to understanding how we feed cities.

On Our Loading Dock: Recommendations from Food+City

On Our Loading Dock: Recommendations from Food+City

 What brain-tickling books, podcasts, movies or YouTube channels are you enjoying right now? Tweet us @foodcityorg and we’ll include some of the responses in our next issue.


This 2014 documentary by Eric Greenberg Anjou looks at the cultural forces that made the Jewish deli what it was in its heyday and how the remaining 150 delicatessens in the U.S. are trying to keep a uniquely American tradition alive.

American Experience: Panama Canal

There’s no better way to comprehend the scale and importance of the construction of the Panama Canal than seeing some of the footage featured in this documentary. You can stream it for free online at pbs.org.

Milk Eggs Vodka

On keaggy.com, Bill Keaggy has been showing off his quirky collector’s habits since the early days of the Internet. Shoes shaped like rocks. Chairs that look sad. In the 2000s, he collected found grocery lists and turned them into a book that gives great insight into American buying (and note-taking) habits.

The Box

Think containers are boring? Let Marc Levinson persuade you otherwise. In his book, now in a second edition, he paints vivid scenes of the enormity, ubiquity, simplicity and technology of containerization. Through his eyes, it’s easy to see how the shipping container has shaped the world.


Clover founder (and MIT engineer) Ayr Muir has found a way to make fast food sustainable. This chain of restaurants and food trucks in the Boston area has more than a dozen locations, uses seasonal produce that is 30 to 60 percent organic and doesn’t have a single freezer. Their menu of sandwiches and sides is based on what’s available seasonally, but they can still serve customers in an average of three and a half minutes.


Two excellent podcasts that touch on food in very different ways. Gastropod from Cynthia Graber (pictured, left) and Nicola Twilley focuses on food through the lens of history and science. Roman Mars (right) ventures into packaging and transportation in his design and architecture podcast, 99 Percent Invisible.

The Container Guide

This wacky idea from Food+City contributor Craig Cannon and friend Tim Hwang — a waterproof field guide to shipping containers — started as a Kickstarter campaign that drew more than $20,000 in pre-orders. The book helps you track ships and their containers in ports across America so you can add them to your life list, just like birders.

Uncommon Carriers

John McPhee is known for going into the field to explain our world. Using his experience riding along with train engineers and barge pilots, he gives readers a close-up look at how these people move our stuff across the country.