In the tradition of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, an ambitious and accessible work of undercover journalism that fully investigates our food system to explain what keeps Americans from eating well—and what we can do about it.
Getting Americans to eat well is one of today’s hottest social issues; it’s at the forefront of Michelle Obama’s agenda and widely covered in the media—from childhood obesity to store brands trying to make their food healthier. Yet most Americans still eat poorly, and award-winning journalist Tracie McMillan wanted to know why. So, in 2009 McMillan went to work undercover in our nation’s food system alongside America’s working poor, living and eating off her wages, to examine how we eat.
McMillan worked on industrial farms in California, in a Walmart produce section outside Detroit, and at an Applebee’s kitchen in New York City. Her vivid narrative brings readers along to grueling work places, introduces them to her coworkers, and takes them home to her kitchen, to see what kind of food she (and her coworkers) can afford to buy and prepare. With striking precision, McMillan also weaves in the story of how we got here, digging deep into labor, economics, politics, and social science to reveal new and surprising truths about how America’s food is grown, sold, and prepared—and what it would take to change the system.
Fascinating and timely, this groundbreaking work examines why eating well in America—despite the expansion of farmer’s markets and eat local movements—is limited to the privileged minority.
About the Author
A working-class transplant from rural Michigan, Brooklyn-based writer Tracie McMillan has written about food and class for a variety of publications including, The New York Times;O, The Oprah Magazine;Harper’s Magazine;Saveur; and Slate. After putting herself through New York University, she began reporting and from 2001 to 2005 she was the managing editor of the award-winning magazine City Limits. There, she won recognition from organizations ranging from the James Beard Foundation to World Hunger Year. Follow her at TracieMcMillan.com or @TMMcMillan.
“The book Ms. McMillan’s mostresembles is Barbara Ehrenreich’s best seller Nickel and Dimed. Like Ms.Ehrenreich, Ms. McMillan goes undercover amid this country’s working poor….This is a voice the food world needs.” —New York Times
"With much courage and compassion, McMillan explores the lives of those at the bottom of our food system. Here is a glimpse of the people who feed us—and the terrible price they pay. If we want to change the system, this is where we must begin." —Eric Schlosser
“Tracie McMillan is gutsy, scrappy, and hard-working—you'd have to be to write this book. The American Way of Eating takes us local in a new way, exploring who works to get food from the field to the plates in front of us, what they are paid, and how it feels. It's sometimes grim but McMillan doesn't flinch; I especially appreciated her openness in telling us what she spent in order to get by (or not). A welcome addition to the urgent, growing body of journalism on food.” —Ted Conover, author of Newjack and Coyotes
“These tales lay bare the sinews, the minds, and the relationships that our food system exploits and discards. In a work of deep compassion and integrity, Tracie McMillan offers us an eye-opening report on the human cost of America’s cheap food.” —Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved and The Value of Nothing
“To uncover the truth behind how our modern food system works, Tracie M. McMillan took jobs in a supermarket produce section, a chain restaurant kitchen, and the fields alongside migrant laborers. If you eat, you owe it to yourself to read this masterful book.” —Barry Estabook, author of Tomatoland
"McMillan provides an eye-opening account of the route much of American food takes from the field to the restaurant table." --Kirkus
“Three cheers for Tracie McMillan; this book is a revelation! It is the sort of engaging first person adventure story that reads like a good novel, all the while supplying the facts and figures that make the larger picture clear. I'm grateful to her in equal parts for the stamina and courage to undertake this undercover journey, the narrative skill that makes the account so digestible, and the commitment to social justice for both workers and consumers that infuses the whole project.” —Janet Poppendieck, author of Free for All and Sweet Charity
"This is an amazing book. Tracie McMillan willtake any reader into new territory. The implacable fierceness offarmwork, the slovenliness behind the produce section at Walmart—prepare to besubmerged in harsh little worlds and shocked. But McMillan keeps hercool, always presenting the context and the content of her struggles withenough analytic detachment to rough out a complete, and convincing, vision offood as a social good. Read her book and your dinner will never look thesame."
--William Finnegan, author of Cold New World
“Tracie McMillan has written a remarkable book for right now—a book that smartly tells us what is wrong with what we eat and how we might improve it. But what is even more remarkable about the book is how deeply engaging it is. With her intimate and confident portraits of American food workers, she crafts a touching, emotional narrative that will stay with you long after you have finished the last page.” —James Oseland, author of Cradle of Flavor
“This is a wonderful introduction to the triumph and tragedy of the American food industry. Mixing compassionate participant observation with in depth, up-to-the-minute background research, Tracie McMillan takes us for an eye-opening, heart-rending tour of the corporate food chain. Along the way we meet unforgettable people who, at great personal cost, labor hard so that we can eat cheaply and easily. Having seen what it takes to move our meals from farm to table, the reader will emerge shaken, enlightened, and forever thankful.” — Warren Belasco, author of Appetite for Change and Meals to Come
“This book is vital. [McMillan] has the writing skills to bear witness, the research background to provide context, and the courage to take on the challenging task.” —Los Angeles Times
“A compelling and cogent argument that eating healthily ought to be easier.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer