Outstanding Academic Titles 2022: Food and Drink

This week we highlight 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles related to food and drink

1. Animal, vegetable, junk: a history of food, from sustainable to suicidal
Bittman, Mark. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021

Cookbook author and newspaper columnist Mark Bittman’s Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal is a sweeping, holistic work covering the evolution of agriculture, commodification and branding of food, the explosion of the meat industry, junk food, and efforts to improve food production, farming, and public health. Bittman synthesizes a multitude of sources in a straightforward, clear-eyed writing style that helps readers understand just how imbalanced (to say the least) the American food industry, industrial farming, and eating habits have become. The book is organized into three sections: “The Birth of Growing” looks at the global evolution of farming from peasant to agribusiness; “The Twentieth Century” examines industrial farming, food production, processing, and branding; and “Change” considers the groups, movements, and individuals fighting for healthful food, agroecological farming, and environmental justice, to name a few. Bittman excels at detailing the role that governments and corporations play in the food system and he places colonialism, racism, sexism, land theft, and other exploitations of women and BIPOC at the center of the history of food. View on Amazon

2. Delicious : the evolution of flavor and how it made us human
Dunn, Rob R. by Rob Dunn and Monica Sanchez Princeton, 2021

This volume is coauthored by an applied ecologist and a medical anthropologist who have worked with numerous experts in various fields to collect the information and theories supporting their case. They draw from anthropology, ecology, food science, chemistry, biology, and other fields to create a compelling perspective on how flavor has driven diets and food choices in the past and continues to do so now. Dunn (applied ecology, North Carolina State Univ.) and Sanchez (a medical anthropologist and independent scholar) explain how they arrived at this approach in a prologue (“Eco-Evolutionary Gastronomy”) and proceed to an in-depth discussion of the “taste system,” developing this into a deeper exploration of how evolutionary history shaped the current human experience of flavor. Succeeding chapters focus individually on various spices, fermentation, and food processing techniques. Meanwhile, the authors contrive to lead readers from early human history to the present day. Images are sparingly used in the book; its real attraction is an insightful narrative spiced with witty asides and relatable notes. Reading the book requires no prior preparation, but readers with knowledge in any of the relevant fields will find their appreciation of the text enhanced. View on Amazon

3. The $16 taco: contested geographies of food, ethnicity, and gentrification
Joassart, Pascale. Washington, 2021

Joassart (San Diego State Univ.) explores food gentrification through consideration of ethnic versus cosmopolitan foodscape perspectives as they relate to a “food apartheid” in the US (p. 63). Through a mixed-methods study that embraces an in-depth, case-study approach, the author exposes and interrogates inequities immigrant communities experience in relation to fluctuating foodscapes and the sociocultural and economic impacts of food gentrification. For instance, the author describes the food apartheid by making visible the challenging working conditions (including food insecurity) faced by food service workers who are predominantly people of color, working class or working poor, women, and immigrants as compared with the mostly white, economically privileged consumers who populate and patronize San Diego’s ethnic foodscapes. Ultimately, Joassart calls for food sovereignty as a way to disrupt the displacement of immigrants and people of color that results from gentrification, the latter being due, ironically enough, to expanding cosmopolitan foodscapes that prize “diversity.” This book could be a useful text for courses in the disciplines of geography, sociology, food studies, and ethnic studies. View on Amazon

4. Green with milk and sugar: when Japan filled America’s tea cups
Hellyer, Robert I. Columbia, 2021

Hellyer (Wake Forest Univ.) has produced a well-researched, elegantly written history of what appears to be a very niche subject: the drinking of Japanese green tea in the US. However, this focus brings into perspective the history of the Japanese tea industry after 1860, the trends in the trans-Pacific, Japanese-American tea trade before WW II, the marketing and regulation of foreign-origin food in the US, and the impact of anti-Japanese racism on tea consumption. Hellyer judiciously uses his personal connection to the subject—his great grandfather and grandfather owned a green tea factory in Japan and promoted the export of tea to the US—to illustrate aspects of the story. Readers will likely be surprised to learn that ex-Tokugawa samurai were involved in the Shizuoka tea industry after 1868 or that Americans, especially Midwesterners, preferred for decades to drink Japanese green tea every day. Moreover, who knew that the popularity of green tea in Japan today is the result of American choices in more recent years to drink black tea? Hellyer’s story is thoughtfully constructed and easy to follow. View on Amazon

5Smashing the liquor machine: a global history of prohibition
Schrad, Mark Lawrence. Oxford, 2021

In this groundbreaking, revisionist work on the history of temperance and prohibition. Schrad (Villanova Univ.) makes a compelling case that the temperance movement was not just an American phenomenon but “the most popular, most influential, and longest-lived international social-reform movement in the history of the world” (p. 9). This global study documents prohibition efforts in Russia, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Austria-Hungary, the British Empire, and the US. Schrad examines such well-known prohibitionists as Carrie Nation and Frances Willard and the temperance actions of notable leaders better remembered for other reasons, including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Mohandas Gandhi, Black Hawk, and Vladimir Lenin. Rather than framing prohibition as emblematic of American anti-immigrant, anti-minority cultural conflict and the sword of powerful groups in maintaining their privilege, Schrad argues that prohibition was the shield of marginalized communities against subordination—subaltern people around the world embraced prohibition to oppose exploitation of the “liquor traffic.” For instance, temperance was stronger in Ireland than anywhere else in the British Isles, rooted in nationalist resistance to British colonization. Under Gandhi, the Indian National Congress maintained close ties to prohibitionists and protested liquor sales to resist the British Raj. View on Amazon

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