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Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes from and Why We Need to Get It Back [NOOK Book]

Overview

Ask children where food comes from, and they’ll probably answer: “the supermarket.” Ask most adults, and their replies may not be much different. Where our foods are raised and what happens to them between farm and supermarket shelf have become mysteries. How did we become so disconnected from the sources of our breads, beef, cheeses, cereal, apples, and countless other foods...
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Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes from and Why We Need to Get It Back

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Overview

Ask children where food comes from, and they’ll probably answer: “the supermarket.” Ask most adults, and their replies may not be much different. Where our foods are raised and what happens to them between farm and supermarket shelf have become mysteries. How did we become so disconnected from the sources of our breads, beef, cheeses, cereal, apples, and countless other foods that nourish us every day?



Ann Vileisis’s answer is a sensory-rich journey through the history of making dinner. Kitchen Literacy takes us from an eighteenth-century garden to today’s sleek supermarket aisles, and eventually to farmer’s markets that are now enjoying a resurgence. Vileisis chronicles profound changes in how American cooks have considered their foods over two centuries and delivers a powerful statement: what we don’t know could hurt us.



As the distance between farm and table grew, we went from knowing particular places and specific stories behind our foods’ origins to instead relying on advertisers’ claims. The woman who raised, plucked, and cooked her own chicken knew its entire life history while today most of us have no idea whether hormones were fed to our poultry. Industrialized eating is undeniably convenient, but it has also created health and environmental problems, including food-borne pathogens, toxic pesticides, and pollution from factory farms.



Though the hidden costs of modern meals can be high, Vileisis shows that greater understanding can lead consumers to healthier and more sustainable choices. Revealing how knowledge of our food has been lost and how it might now be regained, Kitchen Literacy promises to make us think differently about what we eat.

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Editorial Reviews

Juliet Eilperin
Kitchen Literacy chronicles how the growth of the increasingly complex food distribution system—railroads transporting animals and factories producing canned goods—eventually led consumers into a "covenant of ignorance" with supermarket chains, food manufacturers and advertising firms…Vileisis's tone can be preachy at times…Yet her book performs a valuable service in reminding readers that we were not always so clueless when it came to making food choices.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal

Vileisis, author of the award-winning Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America's Wetlands, lights her own torch in the flames of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemmaand directs her attention to the forces that shaped the way Americans act today. Scarcely 200 years ago, a cook had intimate knowledge of every ingredient in his or her kitchen. In the intervening decades, seemingly independent parties-the government, the farm industry, major university health departments, advertisers, and manufacturers-worked to create a consumer who would be brand loyal, and familiar logos replaced generations of knowledge about food, agriculture, and farming. It is not that we have never read this before, but Vileisis gathers it all in one place, weaving a clear, easy-to-read tapestry whose meaning is plain by the end of the book: you are what you eat, so think about what you've been eating. Her extensive notes bring together decades of evidence regarding the unhealthy merger of something we need-food-with something we're told to want-products. This important and eye-opening book uncovers the machinery behind the modern food industry and is an essential purchase for most academic and public libraries.
—Rosemarie Lewis

American Scientist

"Kitchen Literacy brings home just how essential it is for eaters to cultivate knowledge of their food."
eatingwell.org

"Kitchen Literacy provides a cautionary tale of how we got so far off the eaten path in the first place."
American Scientist - Anna Lena Phillips
"Kitchen Literacy brings home just how essential it is for eaters to cultivate knowledge of their food."
Real Simple - Deborah Madison

"This book...gave me encouragement to keep on doing what I can to make our food world a happier, wiser, more truly sustainable one."
Publishers Weekly

"Vileisis’s well-researched treatise will give those interested in local and organic foods, food processing and American culinary culture plenty to chew on."

Library Journal

“Vileisis gathers it all in one place, weaving a clear, easy-to-read tapestry whose meaning is plain by the end of the book: you are what you eat, so think about what you've been eating… This important and eye-opening book uncovers the machinery behind the modern food industry…”
The Washington Post

"[Kitchen Literacy by Ann Vileisis] performs a valuable service in reminding readers that we were not always so clueless when it came to making food choices."
Midwest Book Review

"A 'must-read' for modern-day consumers in the post-family farm era."
farmer and author of Fields of Plenty - Michael Ableman

"Kitchen Literacy goes to the heart of our disconnection from one of the most vital and intimate aspects of our lives—how we feed ourselves and our families. Accessible, entertaining, and enlightening, Ann Vileisis's new book has given us the historical context to understand what we have lost and how to bring food back to where it belongs—at the center of our families and communities."
author of Changes in the Land and Nature's Metropolis - William Cronon

"It is no exaggeration to say that the single most vital connection any of us has to the natural world is the food we eat. And yet the paradox of modern life is that over the past century, most of us have become profoundly ignorant about where our food comes from and the myriad ways it affects us. In her wonderful new book Kitchen Literacy, Ann Vileisis explains how we came to forget so much about the food we eat...and how much we gain by remembering the journeys it makes to reach our tables."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597263719
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 9/7/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 574,177
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Ann Vileisis is a writer and historian. She is the author of Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America’s Wetlands (Island Press, 1997), which won prestigious awards from the American Historical Association and the American Society for Environmental History. An avid gardener and cook, she lives on the Oregon coast.
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Table of Contents


Introduction: Missing Stories
Chapter 1. A Meal by Martha
Chapter 2. To Market, To Market
Chapter 3. Mystifying the Mundane
Chapter 4. Denaturing the Senses
Chapter 5. A New Longing for Nature
Chapter 6. Rise of the Modern Food Sensibility
Chapter 7. The Covenant of Ignorance
Chapter 8. Kitchen Countertrends
Epilogue: Returning Stories to the Modern Kitchen
 
Notes
Illustration Credits
Acknowledgements
Index
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