Reporters love to show we had “impact.” Fingers crossed that Applebee’s is switching their focus to fresh because of me!

Huff Post Food • July 2, 2012

Everyone is allowed a small mid-life crisis — even the world’s largest casual dining chain. Applebee’s President Mike Archertold USA Today that he wants to create a “new generation of Applebee’s lovers.” Continue reading “Reporters love to show we had “impact.” Fingers crossed that Applebee’s is switching their focus to fresh because of me!”

More Americans cooking—not b/c they’re broke but b/c they know how @michaelpollan @JamieOliver @Bittman: It’s working! ::

Credit whomever or whatever you like — foodie journalists, celebrity chefs, the depressing state of the American economy — but Americans are increasingly cooking at home, according to a recent poll, reports trade magazine Progressive Grocer. Two key findings:

(1) Americans are cooking more

In fact, seven in 10 Americans say they are cooking more instead of going out in an effort to save money, according to a survey released in mid-May by The Harris Poll. Fifty-seven percent of consumers agree that going out for dinner is now a luxury, compared to their previous dining preferences, and less than a third (29 percent) say they would cut other expenses in order to be able to eat away from home.

Emphasis added there, because I think it’s points to an interesting fact: Most Americans are willing to cook at home as a bid at economic independence. The idea that Americans are just too lazy to cook doesn’t seem to hold up here.

(2) We’re cooking more, in part, because now we know how to do it

According to the Harris Poll, the economic malaise that started a few years ago has had a lingering effect. “At the beginning of the downturn, we saw consumers saving money by changing their behavior in two ways: eating out less frequently and shifting their eating-out dollars away from casual dining towards fast-food/quick-service restaurants,” remarks Mary Bouchard, VP and thought leader at Harris Interactive. “Now, with several years of experience with constrained budgets, they have shifted even further from the busy lifestyle convenience of eating out on a regular basis to making time for cooking at home.”

That last bit of emphasis — also added by me — would suggest that folks like Jamie Oliver, Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, not to mention Rachael Ray, have got it right: When we know how to cook, we do it more.

Why @Target ‘s expanding grocery business makes me queasy #PlayingCatchup

What I find most interesting about Target’s expansion as a grocer is that its produce offerings (not unlike Walmart’s) tend to be slim and of not-the-best-quality-ever. I’m completely comfortable with people making use of canned and frozen produce, but there’s something about shifting our food supply away from things-we-can-eat-as-they-are and toward things-someone-else-makes-and-sells-us that makes me incredibly uneasy.

a new kind of risk assessment.

One benefit of the AWEsome Book Tour: Catching up with old sources.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Brahm Ahmadi, a food justice entrepreneur in Oakland, CA this week. It wasn’t a long meeting, but I did get a really good “perspective check” on discussions of food. Brahm’s smart thought for the day? Part of what keeps low-income families from eating fresher, healthier food is not physical access or straight economics. It’s not a question of “I will not spend that much for food.”  It’s more like, “I will not spend that much for food THAT I DON’T KNOW I WILL LIKE EATING.” This is a pretty big shift in perspective, and holds true to what I’ve seen in my reporting (and observed in myself).

Particularly when time and budgets are tight,  taking a risk on a new kind of food is just that: A risk — of limited resources like time and money. So shifting diets isn’t just about access but about playing with that question of risk—of re-aligning the cost-benefit analysis for folks with limited means.

What I especially like about this is that this perspective sees working-class people as intelligent agents of their own lives and diets, rather than lecturing down to them about everything that is wrong with their diet. It’s a longer-term solution, something that will take years — as in, decades. But that also means, I think, that any change it helps bring about could have staying power.



having a blast talking with @BrianLehrerTV @talkradiolive @CJADONair and more!

I’ve had a lot of fun the last few days doing different radio and TV appearances, so just a formal shout out here to:

  • Michael Finney, who does a consumer affairs show here in San Francisco for KGO 810 had me on over St. Patty’s Day to talk about The American Way of Eating
  • Kim Fraser, a radio host in Montreal, chatted with me about The American Way of Eating for her listeners on CJAD 800 Sunday, March 18
  • Karel on San Francisco AM 880, who offered up a few conspiracy theories that hadn’t occurred to me about our food during our talk on Sunday March 18
  • This afternoon I taped a segment with Brian Lehrer for his great show on CUNY TV, talking about The American Way of Eating and Walmart’s move toward NYC. The show airs on channel 75 at various times throughout the week;
  • I also had a delightful conversation with the hosts at AM 1140 KSOO in Sioux Falls, South Dakota this afternoon for their local show, Viewpoint University. It marked the first time anyone has changed the subtitle to reflect the deepest-fried traditions in Midwestern cuisine, and I found it entirely charming. Hosts Ruth and Rick were wonderful to talk to, and I gotta say: Rick Knobe appears to be a man after my own heart. He said something (paraphrasing here) like: You know what I would like? If, instead of the National Enquirer and 2-for-$1 giant candy bars, they sold little cups of grapes to munch on for 25 cents. Wouldn’t that be great? To which I say: Yes it would!

The Best Mexican Food of My Life

The Wall Street Journal • March 1, 2012

A few years ago, working an undercover stint for “The American Way of Eating,” I had the best soup of my life. I had just taken a room—a cubby, really— with farmworkers in California’s Salinas Valley, paying $300 for the next seven weeks, using it as a homebase from which to find field work. As soon as I agreed to take the room, my landlady led me into the kitchen and set a steaming bowl of soup, scarlet and speckled with golden globules of fat, before me. Chunks of fish, fleshy and white, floated in the bowl alongside translucent onion snippets and scraps of herbs. Eat! she commanded in Spanish, handing me half a lime and a salt shaker. Then she pointed to a stack of fresh flour tortillas. Eat! Continue reading “The Best Mexican Food of My Life”

Get Walmart Out Of Your Kitchen: A Reason To Learn To Cook

The Good Life • Feb. 22, 2012

On, Emma Mustich talks to Tracie McMillan, the author of “The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table,” about whether we have the inalienable right to eat fresh food. While in Thomas Jefferson’s day, the poor ate less fresh food than the rich, now most American single guys spend less than one percent of their income on fresh produce, but up to half their food dollars on eating out. Continue reading “Get Walmart Out Of Your Kitchen: A Reason To Learn To Cook”