Kitchen Literacy

Kitchen Literacy

How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From and Why We Need to Get It Back

Book - 2008
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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.
Publisher: Washington : Island Press/Shearwater Books, c2008
ISBN: 9781597261449
Branch Call Number: 641.5973 V699k 2008
Characteristics: 332 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Kitchen Literacy promises to make us think differently about what we eat by revealing how knowledge of our food has been lost and how it might now be regained.

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Oct 27, 2016

Many small mistakes that make me wonder about the content of the book.

Example - "corn" was a generic term for grains so bread made from corn is a term for bread made from grains, not from maize.

Example - "Pure Food and Drug Act" is often named "Pure Food and Drugs Act."

Other typos are also annoying.

How much care was really spent on this book?

Sep 18, 2015

Well researched, with lots of endnotes and directions for further reading on the topic. I loved the first few chapters about what it was like procuring food from the colonial to turn-of-the-19th-century eras; these chapters were not only interesting, but provided a detailed look inside the 19th century kitchen that I haven't seen before in books of this genre. The remaining chapters (covering roughly 1900 to the present) were well done, but the history of the industrial agriculture complex has already been covered by lots of other books (Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It, The End of Food, etc etc). Unlike the bright packaging of cereals at the supermarket, Vileisis' treatment of this time period did not jump out at the reader from the sea of others


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