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

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Oxford University Press, 1994 - Diet - 337 pages
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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THE PARADOX OF PLENTY: A Social History of Eating in Modern America

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Levenstein's Revolution at the Table (1988), which surveyed the changes in American food habits between 1880 and 1930, is widely deemed a major contribution to our culinary history. Here, he brings ... Read full review

Paradox of plenty: a social history of eating in modern America

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In his lively, entertaining study of America's eating habits from 1930 to the present, Levenstein (history, McMaster Univ.) explores the disturbing existence of hunger in the midst of agricultural ... Read full review


Depression Paradoxes 3
Depression Dieting and the Vitamin Gold Rush
The New Woman Goes Home
Eating Out in Depression America
Onethird of a Nation 111 Nourished?
Nutrition for National Defense
Food Shortages for the People of Plenty
Miracle Whip uber Alles
Nutritional Terrorism
The Politics of Food
Natural Foods and Negative Nutrition
Darling Where Did You Put the Cardamom?
Fast Foods and Quick Bucks
Paradoxes of Plenty
Abbreviations for Frequently Cited Periodicals

The Bestfed People the World Has Ever Seen?
The Politics of Hunger

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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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