What We've Read
Food is at the center of national debates about how Americans live and the future of the planet. Not everyone agrees about how to reform our relationship to food, but one suggestion rises above the din: We need to get back in the kitchen. Amid concerns about rising rates of obesity and diabetes, unpronounceable ingredients, and the environmental footprint of industrial agriculture, food reformers implore parents to slow down, cook from scratch, and gather around the dinner table. Making food a priority, they argue, will lead to happier and healthier families. But is it really that simple?
In this riveting and beautifully-written book, Sarah Bowen, Joslyn Brenton, and Sinikka Elliott take us into the kitchens of nine women to tell the complicated story of what it takes to feed a family today. All of these mothers love their children and want them to eat well. But their kitchens are not equal. From cockroach infestations and stretched budgets to picky eaters and conflicting nutrition advice, Pressure Cooker exposes how modern families struggle to confront high expectations and deep-seated inequalities around getting food on the table.
Based on extensive interviews and field research in the homes and kitchens of a diverse group of American families, Pressure Cooker challenges the logic of the most popular foodie mantras of our time, showing how they miss the mark and up the ante for parents and children. Romantic images of family meals are inviting, but they create a fiction that does little to fix the problems with the food system. The unforgettable stories in this book evocatively illustrate how class inequality, racism, sexism, and xenophobia converge at the dinner table. If we want a food system that is fair, equitable, and nourishing, we must look outside the kitchen for answers.
Additional Discussion Points/Resources:
February 2021: The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South
A renowned culinary historian offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, in this illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry--both black and white--through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom.
Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who "owns" it is one of the most provocative touch points in our ongoing struggles over race. In this unique memoir, culinary historian Michael W. Twitty takes readers to the white-hot center of this fight, tracing the roots of his own family and the charged politics surrounding the origins of soul food, barbecue, and all Southern cuisine.
From the tobacco and rice farms of colonial times to plantation kitchens and backbreaking cotton fields, Twitty tells his family story through the foods that enabled his ancestors' survival across three centuries. He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia.
As he takes us through his ancestral culinary history, Twitty suggests that healing may come from embracing the discomfort of the Southern past. Along the way, he reveals a truth that is more than skin deep--the power that food has to bring the kin of the enslaved and their former slaveholders to the table, where they can discover the real America together.
From the author of the New York Times bestseller So You Want to Talk About Race, a subversive history of white male American identity.
What happens to a country that tells generation after generation of white men that they deserve power? What happens when success is defined by status over women and people of color, instead of by actual accomplishments?
Through the last 150 years of American history -- from the post-reconstruction South and the mythic stories of cowboys in the West, to the present-day controversy over NFL protests and the backlash against the rise of women in politics -- Ijeoma Oluo exposes the devastating consequences of white male supremacy on women, people of color, and white men themselves. Mediocre investigates the real costs of this phenomenon in order to imagine a new white male identity, one free from racism and sexism.
As provocative as it is essential, this book will upend everything you thought you knew about American identity and offers a bold new vision of American greatness.
From sneaking into factories and dumps around the world to visiting textile workers in Haiti and children mining coltan for cell phones in the Congo, Leonard, named one of Time magazine's 100 environmental heroes of 2009, highlights each step of the materials economy and its actual effect on the earth and the people who live near sites like these.
With curiosity, compassion, and humor, Leonard shares concrete steps for taking action at the individual and political level that will bring about sustainability, community health, and economic justice. Embraced by teachers, parents, churches, community centers, activists, and everyday readers, The Story of Stuff will be a long-lived classic.
In 2016, a small protest encampment at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, initially established to block construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, grew to be the largest Indigenous protest movement in the twenty-first century. Water Protectors knew this battle for native sovereignty had already been fought many times before, and that, even after the encampment was gone, their anticolonial struggle would continue. In Our History Is the Future, Nick Estes traces traditions of Indigenous resistance that led to the #NoDAPL movement. Our History Is the Future is at once a work of history, a manifesto, and an intergenerational story of resistance.
We had a great discussion about Seth Holmes' book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies, in particular appreciating the way that Holmes rejects the racist generalization of all migrant farmworkers as "dirty Mexicans" and breaks down the various ways that systemic racism, US foreign policy and free market ideology damage all within this unequal food system, especially those at the bottom.
Sarah Grant, who is assistant professor of anthropology at CSUF, helped lead the discussion, providing background on:
RESOURCES FROM OUR 10/25 MEETING:
In the fascinating story of the sustainable food revolution, an environmental journalist and professor asks the question: Is the future of food looking bleak--or better than ever?
We had the amazing chance to have the author join our meeting this month, and hear updates on some of the innovations she shared in the book. There is hope for smarter food production and distribution, but it will take a large-scale collective effort and multi-faceted approach. What was the most fascinating food science chapter for you?
Thanks to all who joined us for our August discussion of This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. We had a lively discussion about the unfolding climate crisis, COVID-19 and its effect on world economies, and the crossroads moment that we find ourselves in.
Many despaired over how the climate crisis has worsened dramatically since the book's publication in 2014 and wondered if we have the political will to create real change with so many crises coming to a head this summer (racism, police brutality, the pandemic, healthcare, and the presidential election to name a few).
We talked about how the pandemic should be a catalyst for rethinking school curriculums and our high consumer lifestyles. Many resisted the idea of "getting back to normal" because our "normal" existence was highly consumerist and exploitative of marginalized communities. We talked about the urgent need for environmental education for young people, as well as critical thinking skills, so that they feel a greater sense of connectedness to the earth and to other peoples.
RESOURCES FROM OUR 8/30 MEETING:
Thanks to all who joined us for our July discussion of How To Be an Antiracist. This book was moved up in our rotation as it so thoughtfully explores the ways racism is embedded in our institutions, history, and culture and intersects with the June BLM protests.
We discussed how valuable it was to have a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the various ways that racist thinking underpins racist policy, which enforce the status quo of White supremacy and racial hierarchy in America. Readers liked how Dr. Kendi interweaves his own personal story with definitions of racist terminology.
We also discussed how Dr. Kendi has his detractors due to his argument that Black Americans can also be racist and how some view his work as lacking intersectionality. We talked about how this book is a more scholarly approach, compared to So You Want to Talk About Race which was more focused on communication and practical advice.
RESOURCES FROM OUR 7/26 MEETING:
Thanks to all who joined us for our June read! Opinions were mixed on this one, with many frustrated by the book's focus on luxury brands, repetitiveness, and questionable source material, especially when it comes to the Environmental Working Group, which has a history of cherry-picking data and being too close to corporate sponsors.
On the plus side, many appreciated learning about capsule wardrobes, resale options, how to make clothing/accessories last longer, and becoming more attentive to quality and sustainability issues when buying new clothing.
RESOURCES FROM OUR 6/28 MEETING: