New Nonfiction: Devoured – Sophie Egan

This read goes a long way towards explaining why Americans are so weird about food. Sophie Egan is well-suited to the task—she is both a food writer and a director of the Culinary Institute of America. The result is a book that reads like the literary love child of Michael Pollan and Freakonomics. Drawing on psychology, anthropology, food science, and behavioral economics, it’s an insightful, funny (and more than occasionally appalling) look at how we got to now.

I particularly enjoyed how it is organized, not around food but around what Egan sees as four core American values: Work, freedom, progress and America as the melting pot. Michael Moss, the author of the bestselling Salt Sugar Fat calls it “[a] wild and witty romp through the zaniness that infuses today’s American culture of food.”

[In] this engrossing study [Egan] shows how the sturdy American values of work, freedom, and progress have negatively influenced the industrial food system. She explains that the quest for convenience has created a ‘muddle of the modern meal’; delves into the phenomenon of desktop dining, now the norm for 40% of American office workers; and chronicles the marketing of low-fat, natural, and gluten-free foods (the ‘selling of absence’), which may not always be the healthiest way to eat. A disturbing chapter on ‘stunt foods’ illustrates how social media has contributed to such products as Burger King’s bacon sundae and what these freakish amalgamations say about Americans….Her book is well written, her tone is upbeat, and she offers sound solutions to the tangled problems she discusses, but this is not an appetizing picture of America.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Entertaining… Humorous… An informative look at what Americans eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all those snack times in between and how our eating habits are changing who we are.”
— Kirkus Reviews

Devoured: From Chicken Wings to Kale Smoothies–How What We Eat Defines Who We Are (9780062390981) by Sophie Egan. $28.99 hardcover. 5/3/16 on sale.

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