The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan

Why I Read It: I am perpetually fascinated by industrialized food.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoyed Michael Pollan‘s  or Morgan Spurlock‘s works, this would be another good book for your shelf.

Publisher: Scribner (2012)

Length: 319 pages.

In this non-fiction account of America’s long-standing love affair with quick and easy food, Tracie McMillan takes us on an unbiased ride through grape fields, store produce departments, and the food assembly lines of sit-down chain restaurants. In each case, she took the time to live alongside those she worked with, struggling on a minimum wage (or less) paycheck.

I enjoyed this book mostly for the look at the migrant workers that are employed to harvest the majority of produce that fills our grocery stores. McMillan spent time harvesting grapes (having to remove the unacceptable ones), garlic harvesting, and peach picking. In each instance she was one of the few females and the only Caucasian; her Spanish came in very handy. Moving from there to being employed at Walmart in the produce department, I was surprised to learn that the Produce Manager had no real training or knowledge in fruits and veggies (such as shelf life and how best to store what). At Applebee’s, she worked in the kitchen on the finishing line, ensuring the plates of food looked pleasing and had all the correct accoutrements. Essentially, food was assembled in the kitchen, nearly all of it having been pre-processed (some of it to the point where it needed just to be heated before going to a customer).

One of the many things that I learned from this book was that organic crops can be sprayed with organic pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides. This seems to be going against the purpose of labeling something ‘organic’. Basically, this book reinforced my belief that unless you grow it and cook it yourself, you don’t truly know what you are getting. While this was a great informative book, there were certain spaces in which the story lagged, being filled with statistics.

What I Liked: Information dump; unbiased reporting; the author’s dedication to live alongside those she’s working with; this book increased by Spanish vocabulary; this was my introduction to the term ‘food desert’.

What I Disliked: Sometimes the stats became too much for me – I need numbers to have a frame of reference to have any meaning for me.

1 thought on “The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan”

Comments are always appreciated, so don't be shy!