Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, 1994 - Diet - 337 pages
7 Reviews
America has always been blessed with an abundance of food, but when it comes to the national diet, it is a land of stark contrast and paradox. In the early months of the Depression, for instance, there were 82 breadlines in New York City alone, and food riots broke out in such places as Henryetta, Oklahoma, and England, Arkansas. Yet at the same time, among those who were better-off, absurd weight-loss diets were the rage - the Pineapple-and-Lamb-Chop Diet, the "Mayo Diet" of raw tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs, and even a Coffee-and-Donuts Diet. Why do Americans eat what they eat? And why, in a land of plenty, do so many eat so poorly? In Paradox of Plenty, Harvey Levenstein offers a sweeping social history of food and eating in America, exploring the economic, political, and cultural factors that have shaped the American diet from 1930 to the present. Levenstein begins with the Great Depression, describing the breadlines and the slim-down diets, the era's great communal eating fests - the picnics, barbecues, fish fries, and burgoo feasts - and the wave of "vitamania" which swept the nation before World War II, breeding fears that the national diet was deficient in the so-called "morale vitamin." He discusses wartime food rationing and the attempts of Margaret Mead and other social scientists to change American eating habits, and he examines the postwar "Golden Age of American Food Processing," when Duncan Hines and other industry leaders convinced Americans that they were "the best-fed people on Earth." He depicts the disillusionment of the 1960s, when Americans rediscovered hunger and attacked food processors for denutrifying the food supply, and he shows how President Kennedy helped revive the mystique of French food (and how Julia Child helped demystify it). Finally, he discusses contemporary eating habits, the national obsession with dieting, cholesterolphobia, "natural" foods, the demographics of fast-food chains, and the expanding role of food processors as a source of nutritional information. Both colorful and informative, Paradox of Plenty is the sequel to Levenstein's highly acclaimed Revolution at the Table, which chronicled American eating habits from 1880 to 1930. With this volume he establishes his reputation as the leading historian of the American diet.
  

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Review: Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America ( California Studies in Food and Culture #8)

User Review  - Gretchen - Goodreads

Picks up where Revolution at the Table leaves off. I have read A LOT about food in the past two weeks, but Levenstein's writing still shines. All the complementary things I said about RatT apply here ... Read full review

Review: Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America ( California Studies in Food and Culture #8)

User Review  - Toni - Goodreads

In these days of hype and agenda-driven information, it was both informative and refreshing to read a balanced food book written by someone who does research and isn't just out to get a movie deal. Read full review

Contents

Depression Paradoxes 3
x
Depression Dieting and the Vitamin Gold Rush
9
The New Woman Goes Home
24
Eating Out in Depression America
40
Onethird of a Nation 111 Nourished?
53
Nutrition for National Defense
64
Food Shortages for the People of Plenty
80
Miracle Whip uber Alles
101
Nutritional Terrorism
160
The Politics of Food
178
Natural Foods and Negative Nutrition
195
Darling Where Did You Put the Cardamom?
213
Fast Foods and Quick Bucks
227
Paradoxes of Plenty
237
Abbreviations for Frequently Cited Periodicals
257
Notes
259

The Bestfed People the World Has Ever Seen?
119
19581965
131
The Politics of Hunger
144

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About the author (1994)


About the Author:
Harvey A. Levenstein is Professor of History at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

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