Women Laughing Alone with Salad

This week seems as good as any to link to this well-loved post on The Hairpin, wordlessly compiling stock photos of women laughing alone with salad. The guilt-free natural feminine pleasure of lettuce!



The Rough Democracy of Buying | Bryant Simon | Blog Post | Red Room

I wrote this a while ago, but I was thinking about the idea of buying and politics, its possibilities and limits.  This also follows up on Dylan’s last comment.


The Rough Democracy of Buying | Bryant Simon | Blog Post | Red Room.

Here Goes the Counterculture Again

This week we will surely be asking ourselves what so counter about counterculture capitalism.  One of the key traits of consumer capitalism — why is so worth studying and thinking with – is its responsiveness and the speed of that responsiveness.

So what is upon us now.  Linsanity.  Lin is everywhere.  Not wanting to miss out, Ben and Jerry’s has put out a new yogurt named after the turnover prone guard.  Turns out, they had to take out the fortune cookies.  Is this the counterculture?

I scream, you scream

Here’s a study showing that your brain has similar reactions to ice cream and other drugs:

“[E]nergy-dense food, high sugar food, can elicit neural responses during consumption that parallel those seen in drug addiction.

The best part of the study? The researcher’s name is Burger. What is it with people named after food getting into food studies?

Orwell on Food, Taste, and Want


Here’s that quote from Orwell I mentioned in class last night:


“The miner’s family spend only tenpence a week on green vegetables
and tenpence half-penny on milk (remember that one of them is a child less
than three years old), and nothing on fruit; but they spend one and nine on
sugar (about eight pounds of sugar, that is) and a shilling on tea. The
half-crown spent on meat might represent a small joint and the materials
for a stew; probably as often as not it would represent four or five tins
of bully beef. The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and
margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes–an appalling diet.
Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like
oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter
to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it
would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do
such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on
brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less
money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A
millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an
unemployed man doesn’t. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of
the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say
when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don’t want to
eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’. There is
always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let’s have three pennorth
of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and
we’ll all have a nice cup of tea! That is how your mind works when you are
at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don’t nourish you
to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than
brown bread-and-dripping and cold water.”


In 2010, Sarah Wu a.k.a. “Mrs. Q” decided to eat school lunch every day for a year and document the process.  She now has a book, so I think we should also begin thinking about how we’re going to turn this blog into a money maker.

But moving on, I’ve picked out a few of her posts that might be interesting for us to think about/that I liked.  Here is her original post, short and to the point.  Each “day” includes a photo of the meal and summary of taste/other sentiments aroused by a school lunch.  Fed Up With Lunch has evolved as the blog gained more attention, so look back in 2010 for the meal reviews.

Here is a summary of the new school lunch regulations with other links at the bottom of the post.  This one is about a pre-K student whose homemade lunch was deemed unhealthy based on USDA guidelines and given a school lunch instead.  I’ve included this one not so much for the story (the link from the blog is to Fox News), but for the clear emotional response inspired by taking a turkey sandwich from a child and giving them chicken nuggets instead.

And lastly, while we’re thinking about the food industry, this post is about a NYT piece I had seen earlier this week. Not only do schools contract with companies for food, but they also receive free products from the USDA and then send them out for processing.  For example,

“the Michigan Department of Education… gets free raw chicken worth $11.40 a case and sends it for processing into nuggets at $33.45 a case. The schools in San Bernardino, Calif., spend $14.75 to make French fries out of $5.95 worth of potatoes.”

Again, we’re back to the issue of working kitchens and whether a school has one in addition to the funds to staff said kitchen.  Is the convenience side of Belasco’s triangle the winner when making school lunches?  Cost?  Lobbying power?

Lunch Lady Land

This song has been stuck in my head ever since I started reading Levine’s book.  Now it’s stuck in yours, too!!!



Farm to School

I was thinking about a friend of ours who used to work for Portland Public Schools setting up school gardens.  She was doing Ameri Corps and I noticed, when serving myself, that there was a push for host sites that fostered farm to school programs.  I found this site, which showcases some current programs nationwide (no surprise here, Oregon is really into farm to school).  It sounds eerily familiar though, connecting farmers to school children, ensuring farm viabilityandnutrition, while respecting each community’s specific needs (no regulations here folks).  Of course implementing a farm to school program depends on state laws and regulations, but is this just another lunch program that provides for middle class students (and farm subsidies)?  Could something like this work in Philadelphia?

Between Two Ferns with Susan Levine

To start, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your method.  You mention in your acknowledgements that your own children served as an inspiration to start this book.  How did you go from there?  Did you have specific questions in mind? Did you know you would use this time frame, etc?  As grad students it is always interesting to see the decisions scholars make, obviously some things just have to be left out, how did you decide what to focus on and what to leave out?

I didn’t really know where I was going w/ school lunch – and had no idea
it would turn into a book! I thought at first the slp was a New Deal
program but soon discovered the program began in 1946 but had longer roots
in the Progressive Era.  One thing led to another – history of nutrition,
the role of home economists, the role of the Department of Agriculture,
and finally, the relation of school lunch to the Civil Rights Movement.

Since this is a class on food, was it a conscious decision to not talk about what children ate and their experience with the food? Do you consider School Lunch Politics to be a food history?  What defines a food history?  (Are descriptions of food or the physical act of eating/taste necessary?)  What might a history of what children ate/the history of taste in school cafeterias look like- could the politics behind school lunch be muted?

Yes, I specifically wanted to make the point that food is politics –
school lunch is not just about the food kids eat but is tied to a
constellation of political choices and alliances. I think it is impossible
 – or at least misleading – to separate the food that is served in
lunchrooms from the political forces that support the program – and pay
for the food!

Last week we read Tracey Deutsch’s Building a Housewife’s Paradise and she was asked to define politics, I was wondering if you could do the same?  How did the school lunch program shape the way you thought about politics?  Did political trends of the 20th C shape how you thought about school lunch?  What surprised you about the lunch program while you were researching the book?

What surprised me the most were the unlikely alliances that came together
to support a national school lunch program  – conservative Southern
legislators, Northern liberals – later anti-hunger/poverty activists and
food service providers who could provide lunches for large numbers of poor
kids at reasonable cost.  Politics really is  public alliances and choices
– and the power centers   – that make programs possible or impossible.

It was interesting to see how school lunch reflected the contemporary atmosphere throughout the book.  During the Cold War it was about building healthy (white, middle class) citizens and a strong democracy and then by the time we get to Reagan school lunches start being privatized and nutritional guidelines are more about ways to fudge the system (the juice in jam now counts as a fruit serving).  Building off the previous question, did you expect to see school lunches act as a sort of yardstick in this way?  What do these shifts say about how Americans think about race and class?  I think the book gets at these, but what else might you add?  Why is it that diet as a “cultural problem” continues to be part of the discussion about school lunch?

One of the things that intrigued me when I began to delve into school
lunch was finding out that the number of kids eating free lunch is being
used as a general measure of poverty – and a general eligibility count for
other federal benefits/program – and in some cases as a a proxy for race
in discussions of school re-districting.  One of the most interesting
things about school lunch is the way it combines the culture and the
politics of food.

And finally, what are you working on now?  Did School Lunch
Politics influence your new project?  How does thinking about food shape the way you approach writing history?

I’m now working on a history of international food aid – especially the
relationship between voluntary organizations (NGOs in the contemporary
period) and government policy – especially diplomatic strategies and
agricultural policies  – but also the development of ideas about
hunger/poverty and humanitarianism.

Poverty porn?

Should white elites write about the poor? Over at Slate, author Tracie McMillan has been offering excerpts from her new book The American Way of Eating, and she has apparently caught some slack for her undercover work at Applebee’s. (Comments slack is still slack, right?) It’s worth reading her pieces and glancing at the comments. (The answer to her title question is: sure, why not, but her response raises interesting questions about income and class, not necessarily in alignment.)

I wish Applebee’s was still known as T.J. Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixirs.