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Über dieses Buch

This volume is about becoming better food citizens. The author argues that building community is the key to healthy, equitable, and sustainable food. While researching this book, the author interviewed more than 250 individuals, from flavorists to Fortune 500 executives, politicians to feedlot managers, low-income families to crop scientists, who play a role in the life of food. Advertising consultants told him of efforts to distance eaters and producers—most food firms don’t want their customers thinking about farm laborers or the people living downstream of processing plants. But he also found stories of people getting together to change their relationship to food and to each other.



Introduction: Changing the Foodscape

In our fast-paced, fast-food culture, everyone seems to be eating alone—all the time. Americans report that they eat nearly 50 percent of their meals alone, while more than 60 percent of office workers typically have lunch at their desks—a phenomenon so prevalent it has earned a catchy moniker: desktop dining. So why do I claim that No One Eats Alone?
Michael S. Carolan

Chapter 1. Monocultures of the Mind and Body

“You are what you eat.” We have all heard this saying, and no doubt each of us has used it on a few occasions. Yet food is not only a what, but also a when, a why, a how, and a with whom. In other words, we cannot understand food without understanding the social practices that go along with eating and producing it, as well as all those activities that lie in between. Those practices have changed dramatically over the last half century, becoming far more homogenized, as illustrated in figures 1.1 and 1.2. Figure 1.1 tracks the narrowing dietary profiles of dozens of countries from 1961 to 2009, which also implies a narrowing of culinary skills, preferences, and knowledge. Figure 1.2 shows the same trends, focusing specifically on seven commodities, three industrial and four traditional.
Michael S. Carolan

Chapter 2. Knowing Quality

A Google search for nineteenth-century cookbooks returns many pages of results, all now in the public domain. It’s a virtual time machine for anyone who wants a sense of how our ancestors experienced food. Among my favorites: The White House Cook Book, from 1887. The opening pages read: “To the wives of our Presidents, those noble women who have graced the White House, and whose names and memories are dear to all Americans, this volume is affectionately dedicated.” After dispensing with such formalities, the author transitions to practical advice about preparing a chicken dinner:
Michael S. Carolan

Chapter 3. Shaping Values

Food writers generally avoid tramping into the thorny terrain of ethics. Remarkable, when you think about it. After all, a good bit of what we’re fighting over when it comes to food concerns ethical claims. Eat this. Avoid that. Why? Because that is what you should do. For the environment! Because animals feel pain, too! Support local businesses! Food justice! There is no reason to be daunted by the subject of ethics, or values, a term I generally prefer because it seems slightly less esoteric. It is an utterly mundane topic, and I mean that with no insult to ethicists. Grappling with our values is not about casting our gaze skyward, but about creating the everyday human connections that evoke real empathy and understanding. “Buy local” starts to mean something more when you know the guy who owns and operates the neighborhood butcher shop. “Free-range” seems more important if you’ve visited a sustainable ranch or, on the other hand, if you’ve ever seen a battery cage up close. “Food justice” can move from being a politically correct platitude to a deeply felt commitment when you’ve worked alongside those whose station in life is different from your own. We need to start considering ethical claims at that level. We tend to preach what we practice, because through practice—what we do—certain ethical claims just feel right.
Michael S. Carolan

Chapter 4. Spatial Distance versus Social Distance

This chapter takes aim at a sacred cow in alternative food movements: “local.” If practices shape what we care about, then the potential of alternative food movements is not being fully realized by focusing narrowly on local food. After all, foodscapes can be “local,” “close,” and “compact” and still separate people.
Michael S. Carolan

Chapter 5. One Health

People around the world are hungry. They need food. And just as importantly, they need nutritious food: affordable fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and fast food. Wait, what was that last one?
Michael S. Carolan

Chapter 6. From Slow Food to Connectivity

Walking up their driveway, I passed a 1990 Volkswagen. Nothing out of the ordinary about it, except for the two bumper stickers displayed on its rear window: one read, “Slow Food”; the other, “If I’m Speeding It’s Because I Have to Poop.” Chuckling, I reconciled the mixed messages, thinking the car was a hand-me-down, from parent to child. I knew that the owners, whom I was about to interview, had two teenage sons. (I was once a teenage boy myself. Enough said.) I did not think any more about those stickers until weeks later, while reading through the transcript of my interview from that day. I never asked if the messages were intentionally placed side by side, perhaps even by the parents.
Michael S. Carolan

Chapter 7. Buying Behaviors versus Building Community

“Legislation is one thing; behavioral change is something else entirely.” This obsevation came from Nicole, a nutritionist employed by the USDA within its Food and Nutrition Service agency. We were discussing the challenge of getting school-age kids to eat differently. A few years back, the federal government introduced a new rule requiring schools to serve an extra $5.4 million worth of fruits and vegetables in lunchrooms across all fifty states daily. Nicole described this particular piece of legislation as “eye-opening,” for it made her realize that “offering healthier options and having kids actually eat healthy are two completely different challenges.” She added, only half-jokingly: “What that legislation really amounted to is it increased fruit and vegetable waste in our schools by some $5.4 million daily.” US schools are actually wasting $3.8 million of that $5.8 million daily investment, according to one study. Regardless of the actual figure, there is a lot of food being wasted in our schools—even more now, thanks to those new federal school-meal rules, which arose out of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Michael S. Carolan

Chapter 8. Getting Big Versus Getting Together

“The little guys have their purpose,” Jérémie told me. “But still, the reality is you gotta pay to play. There are efficiencies; if you want to feed the world, there are efficiencies that can only be had with scaling up, with capital investment.”
Michael S. Carolan

Chapter 9. Becoming Citizens

It’s easy to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem. That’s particularly true of food, which involves problems that can be maddeningly complex. Complex, however, does not mean impossible. No panaceas, of course. Education; external incentives; food bans; Green Revolutions: one-size-fits-all approaches ignore the truth that the only worthwhile solutions are those that people find themselves. This leads me to offer this one observation, the closest I’ll come to a magic bullet, which unites the wide array of alternative-foodscape inhabitants quoted throughout this book. They all express a desire to create citizens rather than just consumers.
Michael S. Carolan


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