A Short History of the American Stomach

I don’t have regular recurring features tied to specific days of the week, like the very popular Wordless Wednesday that many of my blog friends unfailingly participate in.   I do, however, have a number of regularly recurring features, but you never know what day of the week they’ll pop up on. 

My partner, Ron, has very different tastes in books and reading and I am truly grateful for his occasional "Ron Reviews" wherein Ron writes about books of his own choosing, giving the blog a wider variety of books and a nice change of perspective from time to time.   Today’s book is not one I would ever have selected myself.    I hope you will enjoy reading Ron’s review of A Short History of the American Stomach.


I finally got  a chance to go to the library and browse the stacks myself. Usually I just check the catalog database and have Alan pick them up for me. But I occasionally love to browse the stacks and see what I can find that looks good to read. And I found this one, A Short History of the American Stomach, by Frederick Kaufman.   Which was a fascinating glimpse into the history of how we as Americans have always had an almost schizophrenic response to food.  We pride ourselves as being gastronomes or being totally obsessed with denying ourselves and only eating "proper" foods..  What ever our idea of proper food might be. Which has varied extremely widely over the years.

What this book shows us is that this behaviour has been going on since the first Pilgrim stepped off the boat.  Who know that there has always been a huge market for diet books, or books on nutritional/food therapy, or that binging/purging are fine old American traditions.

There’s is some interesting info on the Food Network in the first chapter.  Such as that it’s audience has changed from people who watched to learn how to cook better to people who watch, yet, have no intention of cooking or go out of their way to avoid cooking. They watch to see attractive, celebrities cook food they couldn’t afford or want to take so much troube with on a regular basis.. The author also watched a weekend worth of the Food Network with a woman who works as a Porn Analyst (not a bad job if you can get it).  The paralells are astounding.  The structure of the shows, and the way the food is shown correlate with porn tropes.  In essence the Food Network has become Foodie Porn, or as this author referred to it gastro porn. Plus the the "celebrity" chefs are picked for sex appeal as much as cooking skills.  The part where she compared Iron Chef to S &M porn cracked me up big time..

The author talks about some current trends in scientific food development,and genetic food modification, ….even food that we think of as "normal and natural" have been tinkered with on a molecular level to a point that is positively astounding. And there is a section on the challenges of certifying modern food products as Kosher that is fascinating.

I would recommend this book highly to anyone who is a foodie .  It reminds me that "those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it".  And it’s nice to know that we’ve always been a food obsessed culture, and that all of these theories of post war plenty or  easier access to food/fast food is why we’re so fat as a nation.

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