Tasting Table • March 2, 2012
Generally, going undercover is reserved for those in the fields of law enforcement or espionage. Such an act is a far cry from the admittedly comfortable environs of food journalism.
Then along comes Tracie McMillan, author of The American Way of Eating. Her ambitious book chronicles the nine months she spent investigating the American food system from the inside: first as a laborer in California’s farm fields, then as a produce clerk at Walmart and finally in the kitchen at Applebee’s. The book is full of her work stories, plus tales of her (often unsuccessful) attempts to live off her wages from these jobs.
Her enlightening accounts are mellifluously interwoven with carefully researched data. The result is groundbreaking: What Michael Pollan revealed about modern agriculture, McMillan is doing for food distribution.
Her findings–from the wage crimes of the California farming industry to the long hours and socioeconomic disparities of working at Applebee’s–move past mere diagnosis of the problem; rather, she steps closer toward comprehending how the system got this way.
The American Way of Eating is a gripping trip outside our usual comfort zone.