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Fear of Food: A History of Why We Worry about What We Eat
 
 

Fear of Food: A History of Why We Worry about What We Eat [Kindle Edition]

Harvey Levenstein
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Review

"When it comes to food, there are two large categories of eaters: those who do not worry about what they eat but should, and those who do worry about what they eat but should not. In Fear of Food, Harvey Levenstein focuses on the latter group, taking readers through a succession of American fads and panics, from an epidemic of 'germophobia' at the start of the twentieth century to fat phobia at its end. He exposes the instigators of these panics: not only the hucksters and opportunists but also the scientists and health experts." (Times Literary Supplement)"

Product Description

There may be no greater source of anxiety for Americans today than the question of what to eat and drink. Are eggs the perfect protein, or are they cholesterol bombs?  Is red wine good for my heart or bad for my liver? Will pesticides, additives, and processed foods kill me?  Here with some very rare and very welcome advice is food historian Harvey Levenstein: Stop worrying!
In Fear of Food Levenstein reveals the people and interests who have created and exploited these worries, causing an extraordinary number of Americans to allow fear to trump pleasure in dictating their food choices. He tells of the prominent scientists who first warned about deadly germs and poisons in foods, and their successors who charged that processing foods robs them of life-giving vitamins and minerals. These include Nobel Prize–winner Eli Metchnikoff, who advised that yogurt would enable people to live to be 140 by killing the life-threatening germs in their intestines, and Elmer McCollum, the “discoverer” of vitamins, who tailored his warnings about vitamin deficiencies to suit the food producers who funded him. Levenstein also highlights how large food companies have taken advantage of these concerns by marketing their products to combat the fear of the moment. Such examples include the co-opting of the “natural foods” movement, which grew out of the belief that inhabitants of a remote Himalayan Shangri-la enjoyed remarkable health and longevity by avoiding the very kinds of processed food these corporations produced, and the physiologist Ancel Keys, originator of the Mediterranean Diet, who provided the basis for a powerful coalition of scientists, doctors, food producers, and others to convince Americans that high-fat foods were deadly.
In Fear of Food, Levenstein offers a much-needed voice of reason; he expertly questions these stories of constantly changing advice to reveal that there are no hard-and-fast facts when it comes to eating. With this book, he hopes to free us from the fears that cloud so many of our food choices and allow us to finally rediscover the joys of eating something just because it tastes good.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1018 KB
  • Print Length: 230 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0226473740
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (14 Feb 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007I5N64M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #498,569 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Queasy Cuisine 5 May 2012
By takingadayoff TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Harvey Levenstein noticed, while doing research for two books he wrote about American tourists in France, that Americans have a very different attitude toward food than do the French. While the French have what seemed to him, a normal and healthy relationship with food, Americans have a love/hate relationship with food. The very fact that we have a "relationship" with food rather than just eating and enjoying it seemed a bit off to Levenstein.

In his introduction, Levenstein says he hopes that by looking at the history of our food fears, we might lessen our anxieties and increase our pleasure when it comes to food. If only.

The book takes a chronological approach, starting with the early years of the 20th century. Each chapter deals with a food fear of the time, and you just know that if he had wanted to include more food fears, there would have been plenty of material for a much bigger book. But Levenstein wasn't out to write a comprehensive history, he wanted to show some representative food fears through the century and up to the current day.

Expecting to read about amusing food fears of a hundred years ago, I instead read about food fears that aren't much different from the ones we have today - fear of contaminated meat, fear of fat and cholesterol, fear of not getting enough vitamins. He doesn't stop with fears, though. He also writes about food myths, such as the miracle foods that promised to prolong our lives (yogurt, red wine, the Mediterranean Diet). We Americans expect food to either enable us to live forever or to kill us.

I don't know how Levenstein expected his book to allay our fears. The information we get about food changes from decade to decade, even day to day. Eat margarine instead of butter. No, don't! Eggs are the perfect food.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Queasy Cuisine 30 April 2012
By takingadayoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Harvey Levenstein noticed, while doing research for two books he wrote about American tourists in France, that Americans have a very different attitude toward food than do the French. While the French have what seemed to him, a normal and healthy relationship with food, Americans have a love/hate relationship with food. The very fact that we have a "relationship" with food rather than just eating and enjoying it seemed a bit off to Levenstein.

In his introduction, Levenstein says he hopes that by looking at the history of our food fears, we might lessen our anxieties and increase our pleasure when it comes to food. If only.

The book takes a chronological approach, starting with the early years of the 20th century. Each chapter deals with a food fear of the time, and you just know that if he had wanted to include more food fears, there would have been plenty of material for a much bigger book. But Levenstein wasn't out to write a comprehensive history, he wanted to show some representative food fears through the century and up to the current day.

Expecting to read about amusing food fears of a hundred years ago, I instead read about food fears that aren't much different from the ones we have today - fear of contaminated meat, fear of fat and cholesterol, fear of not getting enough vitamins. He doesn't stop with fears, though. He also writes about food myths, such as the miracle foods that promised to prolong our lives (yogurt, red wine, the Mediterranean Diet). We Americans expect food to either enable us to live forever or to kill us.

I don't know how Levenstein expected his book to allay our fears. The information we get about food changes from decade to decade, even day to day. Eat margarine instead of butter. No, don't! Eggs are the perfect food. No, wait! No need to worry about mad cows, we've got it under control.

He describes how Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, a novel about the horrific slaughterhouses of the Midwest, published in 1906, could be written today with little change. In fact, he reminds us, Eric Schlosser did write a similar expose in his Fast Food Nation in 2001. Sinclair's book was the catalyst for more change than was Schlosser's, and the legislation that Congress felt obliged to pass in 1906 despite the agri-business opposition that already was entrenched, was fairly toothless. Levenstein goes on to describe how most people back then seemed to be more concerned about the price of beef than about whether it was contaminated or not. Similarly, in 2012 we are shocked by stories of "pink slime" but beef consumption hasn't budged.

Fear of Food is a short and fascinating book, sprinkled with photos of old ads and posters. It may not reduce your fear of food, but maybe you can find comfort in the fact that you are not alone. We are all afraid of food and have been for generations. Unless you are French, of course.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To the Heart of the Matter 10 April 2012
By Christian Schlect - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Professor Harvey Levenstein performs a great service with his short, easy to read history of American fad diets and food scares.

To the consumers of today: Relax and be reasonably skeptical. Any given food story in the headlines is apt to be over-hyped, triggered by the egos of medical/nutritional researchers and/or the media manipulation by the various public advocates with an axe to grind, e.g., NGOs, commercial food companies, charities tied to finding specific disease cures, governmental agencies, etc. etc.

This book should be read as a cautionary tale by all those who would try to make widespread and dramatic changes in something as complex as an entire society's diet.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating study 18 Jan 2013
By Simon Rook - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this a very well researched study of food fads. The author doesn't give his own opinion, he just gives you the history and you can make your own conclusions. Anyone interested in how food choices are manipulated by just about every interested group should read this.
In the epilogue the author gives us his views of what he learnt from his reseach. This is one of the most worthwhile parts of the book, and amounts to: "Eat what you want, but in moderation". Good advice!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but I felt the book, and the topics, could have been expanded on 13 Jan 2014
By R. Lamparter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
You expect for a topic such as this, the book would be very thick, but it's a thin book, which a good bulk of it being appendix. None the less, I hear about this book through one of the NPR food podcasts and decided to check out the book for myself. Other reviewers hit the highs and the lows already, but it was a nice summation of WHY we currently eat the way we do. Although canned meats and other foods were highlighted upon, I felt there could have been more emphasis on why this changed the way we eat in addition to our fears of canning and even frozen foods. We fear not getting enough vitamins, we fear we're eating the wrong oils/fat in our diets, and we fear too much and just stopped enjoying our food. Overall, it is a very good quick read book that just touches on the highlights and history of why modern Americans fear so much with their food, who the researchers (and quacks) who came up with the reasons we still have these deep rooted fears, even if modern research has shown the opposite. I had a giggle, because the 'Hunza' diet study reminds me so much of today's vegan 'China Study' diet - both created and written about in praise, but hiding the obvious flaws, or throwing out the data that disproves your diet or way of eating.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone who eats food 23 July 2013
By West Seattle Mama - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I would normally wait until I finished the book to write a review, but in just 3 chapters I have learned more about why we as Americans are all pill poppin' bores to eat dinner than the thousands of articles, and hundreds of books I have read on the subject of nutrition.
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