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White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf [Anglais] [Relié]

Aaron Bobrow-Strain

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Description de l'ouvrage

6 mars 2012
How did white bread, once an icon of American progress, become “white trash”? In this lively history of bakers, dietary crusaders, and social reformers, Aaron Bobrow-Strain shows us that what we think about the humble, puffy loaf says a lot about who we are and what we want our society to look like.
 
White Bread teaches us that when Americans debate what one should eat, they are also wrestling with larger questions of race, class, immigration, and gender. As Bobrow-Strain traces the story of bread, from the first factory loaf to the latest gourmet pain au levain, he shows how efforts to champion “good food” reflect dreams of a better society—even as they reinforce stark social hierarchies.
 
In the early twentieth century, the factory-baked loaf heralded a bright new future, a world away from the hot, dusty, “dirty” bakeries run by immigrants. Fortified with vitamins, this bread was considered the original “superfood” and even marketed as patriotic—while food reformers painted white bread as a symbol of all that was wrong with America.
 
The history of America’s one-hundred-year-long love-hate relationship with white bread reveals a lot about contemporary efforts to change the way we eat. Today, the alternative food movement favors foods deemed ethical and environmentally correct to eat, and fluffy industrial loaves are about as far from slow, local, and organic as you can get. Still, the beliefs of early twentieth-century food experts and diet gurus, that getting people to eat a certain food could restore the nation’s decaying physical, moral, and social fabric, will sound surprisingly familiar. Given that open disdain for “unhealthy” eaters and discrimination on the basis of eating habits grow increasingly acceptable, White Bread is a timely and important examination of what we talk about when we talk about food.


From the Hardcover edition.
--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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From chapter 1, “Untoched by Human Hands: Dreams of Purity and Contagion”
 
“I want to know where my bread comes from! I don’t want bread from some nameless basement bakery. I want my bread from a bakery that’s clean as my own kitchen. . . .” Know where your bread is baked and how. Don’t take a chance with the bread you buy. You can’t afford to.
—Holsum bread advertisement, late 1920s
 
A HAIR IN THE MILK

There are people who believe that drinking raw milk can cure illness and restore the body to natural harmony. There are people who think that drinking raw milk is like playing Russian roulette with microbes. There are a few farm families that drink raw milk just because it’s what they have around, and a lot more folks who have never given raw milk a single thought because it’s so unusual. Then there are those for whom raw milk is both scary and seductive, wholesome yet menacing. That’s me.
A city kid, I grew up playing in vacant lots, not the back pasture. My idea of nature always involved a campground—I had no experience with the working nature of food production until I was in my twenties. The first time I saw milk come out of an actual cow, I was twenty-five and learning to do the milking myself while interning on a ranch in Arizona. “Red” was her name—the cow, that is. Red is not a particularly creative name for a cow, but my wife, Kate, and I came up with a lot more colorful monikers: the kind of names a cow gets called when it kicks over the milk pail, when it kicks over the feed pail, when it intentionally stomps your foot or butts your shoulder with its ornery old lady horns.
      Red’s was the first clump of hair I ever saw floating in my milk. Before Red, I had never drunk milk with the scent of cow still lingering in it or wondered how much barnyard dust in the milk constituted “too much.” I thought Listeria was something you used mouthwash to get rid of, not the bacteria responsible for a deadly milk-borne sickness.
     Since then I have drunk a lot of raw milk, most of it illegal, thanks to strict government regulations slanted toward large high-tech dairies. I don’t ascribe any particular natural virtue to milk’s unpasteurized state, but I’ve come to like the grassy taste and the sense that I’m getting my milk direct from a local farmer. Despite all that, though, I have never gotten over the slight flutter of unease I first felt drinking raw milk—the modern intuition that maybe there was something dangerous about getting milk from a cow instead of a factory.
This unease has haunted Americans since they first began to grasp the existence of an invisible world of small, possibly threatening organisms. Not without cause. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, city residents got their milk from fetid, overcrowded “swill dairies” or off unrefrigerated train cars traveling overnight from the surrounding countryside. Until mandated pasteurization, milk was a key vector for typhoid and other serious diseases.
     Throughout U.S. history, anxieties about tainted milk have been matched only by concerns about meat. Most notably, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair’s 1906 book about unsanitary conditions in Chicago’s stockyards, galvanized a nascent consumer protection movement. Muckraking journalists, campaigning scientists, and an army of civically engaged middle- and upper-class women horrified by unsafe food took to the streets, courts, and legislatures, demanding change. Sinclair had hoped to spark outrage over the inhuman conditions experienced by immigrant meatpackers. Instead, the country fixated on germs and the frightening immigrants who appeared to spread them into the nation’s food. “I aimed for the people’s heart,” Sinclair is said to have reflected, “and by accident, I hit them in the stomach.”
     Still, when it came to protecting stomachs, the Pure Foods Move ment, as it came to be called, achieved substantial reforms. Pure Foods activists forced manufacturers to change the way they handled and distributed food, boycotted unsanitary establishments out of business, forced state and local officials to take food safety more seri- ously, and passed what still serves as a the bedrock of all federal food safety regulation, the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. Unfortunately, their efforts were far from perfect and were steadily watered down over the next century.
      At the start of the new millennium, Pure Foods crusaders’ concerns still seem shockingly contemporary. Serious food-borne illnesses affected millions and sent hundreds of thousands to hospitals during the 1990s and early 2000s. E. coli in beef emerged as an almost ordinary source of tragedy, while sensational outbreaks of food-borne illness in bean sprouts, strawberries, cilantro, eggs, peanut butter, and spinach gripped the media. Food safety regulations, some with roots in 1906, appeared impotent in the face of a far-flung global food sys- tem dominated by powerful corporations. In many cases, regulators themselves seemed to have been “captured” by the very companies they supposedly oversaw. It felt like the 1900s all over again.
      On the other hand, few Americans alive today can imagine a time when the specter of unclean bread was as scary as germ-clotted milk or tainted beef. And yet, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the menace of contaminated bread was no less a topic of public outcry than dirty meat or milk. Pure Foods crusaders targeted the nation’s bakeries, government hearings convened around bread contamination, and Harvey W. Wiley, the country’s most prominent Pure Foods advocate, warned consumers of serious threats to America’s staple food.
      Accurately or not, a simple loaf of bread from a small urban bakery seemed to many consumers a harbinger of death and disease. These fears ultimately changed the country’s bread. An urgent need to know that one’s bread was pure proved instrumental in convincing Americans to embrace industrially produced loaves. Early twentieth-century bread fears also confused food purity and social purity in a way that placed the blame for unsafe food on some of the food sys- tems’ greatest victims and distracted attention from more systemic pressures, creating danger and vulnerability. As we think about food safety in our own time, the story of America’s bread panic suggests that visions of pure food can motivate desperately needed changes but also backfire in myriad ways.
 
THE PALACE OF AUTOMATIC BAKING

In 1910, the country’s greatest bread bakery opened on the corner of Vanderbilt and Pacific in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights. Six stories tall with an alabaster white neoclassical facade, it was a shining temple to a new way of thinking about food “untouched by human hands.” Gleaming surfaces, massive machinery, and light-filled halls pro- claimed a new creed: industrial food is pure food, and pure food is the foundation of social progress. During the first decades of the twentieth century, tens of thousands of New Yorkers flocked to the Ward Bakery on school field trips and weekly tours to witness the spectacle.
      The Ward Bakery in Brooklyn, along with its twin in the Bronx, was the flagship of a revolution in the way the country’s single most important staple was produced and sold. In the early twentieth century, when average Americans got 30 percent of their daily calories from bread, more than any other single food, New Yorkers ate more bread than any other group in the country. New Yorkers also purchased more of their bread than the rest of the country, and they bought a lot of it from the Ward Baking Company. At the company’s height, Ward’s Brooklyn and Bronx factories supplied one in every five bakery loaves eaten in New York City. By the end of the 1920s, the company had extended that power across the entire country, coming astoundingly close to achieving monopoly control over every single sizable bread market in the nation.
The Ward family achieved this dominance by pioneering key technological breakthroughs, running roughshod over union labor, laying waste to small competitors, and concocting financial machinations that would have dazzled Gordon Gecko. But the Ward Baking Company owed its uncanny ability to win over skeptical customers to a much larger sense of disquiet hanging over early twentieth-century America.
The Ward Bakery went up in Brooklyn at a moment when poor wheat harvests, commodity speculation, and the power of railroad monopolies had stressed bread supplies, causing occasional riots and widespread fear of famine. In the first decades of the twentieth century, “the bread question” was the question for many observers, and it wasn’t just the bread supply that mattered. The country was divided on how bread should be produced in the first place. As one national household advice columnist wrote in 1900, “No subject in the history of foods has been of such vital importance or aroused so much diversion of opinion as bread making.” These specific concerns, in turn, reflected a larger set of perturbations agitating the country.
From the 1870s to the 1920s, a singular convergence of forces buffeted the United States, upending all sense of stability and order. Unprecedented influxes of southern and eastern European immigrants, rapid urbanization, explosive technological change, and a series of grave economic downturns strained old institutions built around the dream of an Anglo-Saxon nation of self-sufficient rural communities. Thrust into an emerging system of global grain trading and financial speculation, rural... --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

“This terrific book does for the humble loaf what Mark Kurlansky does for cod.” —Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved
 
“This is entertaining history and an example of food studies in action.” —Marion Nestle, Food Politics blog
 
“As Aaron Bobrow-Strain shows ... the lowly loaf is so much more than the sum of its simple parts.” —Jesse Rhodes, Smithsonian’s Food and Think blog


“I was hooked a few pages in, and devoured White Bread cover to cover.”—Whole Grains Council

“Whatever you think of white bread, its history is full of surprises. And Bobrow-Strain shares this history with wit, style, and imagination. This is a richly researched and cleverly told story.”—PopMatters.com

"This book provides an enlightening take on bread's social and cultural value. Bobrow-Strain blends academic rigor with a friendly, insightful tone, making White Bread the best thing since...well, never mind."—Serious Eats

"Written by a seasoned baker, White Bread is both an epic, often funny history of the industrial loaf and a wise commentary on today's polarized food politics. Tear into it."—Susanne Freidberg, author of Fresh: A Perishable History
 
“In clear prose that is both muscular and nuanced, Aaron Bobrow-Strain bravely leads us into the belly of the corporate beast to confront the consummate processed food, archetype of everything not whole, crunchy, or virtuous. We emerge with a much better understanding of the staff of life, along with startling insights into our political, economic, military, and environmental crises.”—Warren Belasco, Author of Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took on the Food Industry

“Aaron Bobbrow-Strain has accomplished a difficult task: White Bread is imaginative, scholarly, yet totally accessible. Any reader who cherishes bread and all the issues it touches as a powerful social and aspirational metaphor will love this book.”—Peter Reinhart, baker and author of Artisan Breads Everyday

"A really good read"–Mother Earth News

"
Highly recommended. General and undergraduate collections and up."—Choice Magazine


From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Amazon.com: 3.7 étoiles sur 5  16 commentaires
27 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Fascinating story of White Bread - Innovations - Benefits 11 mars 2012
Par fastreader - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
As the author explains, he had a major task just finding documentation about a food item that we all mostly take for granted and has been around for what seems like forever. He didn't find other books about white bread, there are not extensive newspaper coverage or scholarly papers, but there is definitely an interesting story here.

As with many items bread was just sitting in the background of our consciousness as it was in plain site but other than the odd hiccup it was a benign object.

As with many other products industrialization of the production process pushed this to the forefront. The Ward family created a demand for bread produced "Untouched by Human Hands". This was in the 1920's and 30's and just like today we didn't know we wanted it until the advertising told us we did.

With an ever increasing spread of their bread factories the Wards just about created a USA monopoly but were stopped at the final stages when they tried to merge their three companies into one controlling company. Kudos to the government officials who figured out what could have happened if the merger had occurred. We dodged that potential problem.

The next major step was sliced bread. What was a menial task of cutting loafs of bread now became a mechanical operation and again the public demanded something they didn't even know they wanted. Bakers had to make changes to their processes so that the loaves baked could be sliced by the new machines.

And the final process covered in the book is enriched bread which was an attempt to get the general public to eat better through the introduction of vitamins in bread.

While the public demanded that white bread be super white this presented a problem to producers as flour becomes whiter as it ages however you can't have warehouses full of flour sitting around whitening at their leisure so the chemical whitening process was introduced.

Today we have the ongoing discussion of white bread versus whole grain bread; bespoke bakeries versus multinational producers. Bread has been around for millennia and will continue into the future. Who knows what will rise as a future public demand of bread.

A highly entertaining book with a good representation of the issues and the players involved in white bread.
19 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 You may never think of bread in quite the same way again. 22 mars 2012
Par Paul Tognetti - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
"Modern industrialism has ruined American bread...It's so soft and spongy you can contract it with your hands, mold it any shape you have a mind to....The soft fluffy center is like a mouthful of powder puff. The more you eat it the hungrier you get. This is what America's staff of life has come to."

Such were the observations of Christian Science Monitor critic Horace Reynolds in the 1950's about the bland industrial white bread that most Americans were consuming in those days. Did you ever wonder how the American people came to be hooked on mass-produced white bread? Likewise, would it ever occur to you that the story of white bread might actually be a subject worthy of a serious book? Aaron Bobrow-Strain, an associate professor of politics at Whitman College in Washington and an avid baker himself studied the matter and decided that indeed there was a book here and that he was the guy to write it. "White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf" is the fascinating tale of the spectacular rise and steady decline of mass-produced white bread in America. It turns out to be a much more complicated story than I ever imagined. "White Bread" is about the American people's dreams of purity, naturalness, scientific control, perfect health and even national security. This is a story that evolved over the entire 20th century and frankly is still evolving today. Much to my surprise and delight I could not put this book down.

The dawn of the 20th century found a large segment of the American people becoming increasingly concerned about the safety and purity of the food supply. There had been a dramatic influx of immigrants from Europe and in order to eke out a living many of these folks operated tiny bakeries in the basement of their homes. For the most part these crude bakeries were hot, dusty and dirty. As a result, many middle and upper class Americans began to question the sanitary conditions of these businesses and clamored for the government to take appropriate action to protect the health and well-being of its citizens. The prevailing political climate of the period would ultimately result in the passage by Congress of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. In theory this was legislation designed to reassure the American public that the food and medicines they were consuming had been thoroughly tested and were safe to use. In such a suspicious environment people were searching for products that were literally untouched by human hands. According to the author "the appeal of modern bread lay in the way it resonated with a growing cultural embrace of science and industrial expertise as a buttress of rapidly escalating fears of impurity and contagion." Ward Baking Company was the first to figure out a way to mass produce inexpensive "white" bread. Just a few short years after setting up shop in New York Ward Baking produced roughly one of every five loaves of bread sold in the city. It was an amazing success story. The popularity of industrial white bread would continue to grow with the introduction of automatically sliced bread in 1928. This was a godsend to the beleaguered housewives of that era. Then during World War II "enriched" white bread injected with synthetic vitamins would be introduced allegedly to help the country "withstand the stresses and strains of war". According to the U.S. Public Health Service: "The time has come when it is the patriotic duty of every American to eat enriched bread. Don't buy plain white bread." The popularity of industrial white bread would continue through the 1950's when the average American would consume between 6-8 slices per day.

They say that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Although opposition to bland industrial white bread had been bubbling under in pockets of this country for decades it finally came to the surface in a big way during the 1960's. To the emerging "counterculture" white bread came to symbolize just about everything that was wrong with the establishment. Industrial white bread was viewed as "bland, homogeneous and suburban." Now I do not agree with many of the counterculture's lifestyle choices but I will be the first to admit that it was these folks who were largely responsible for changing the way American viewed their bread. All of a sudden baking bread at home was "cool" again and the darker and more robust the recipe the better. These days we Americans are much more likely to prefer bread that is locally baked, organic and loaded with dietary fiber. In the past few decades thousands of locally-owned bread bakeries have sprung up around the country offering a wide array of tasty and healthy products. It has been a remarkable turnaround in attitude and few can dispute that whole wheat and whole grain products are much more nutritious than mass-produced white bread. Still, as Aaron Bobrow-Strain points out a number of times in the book the kind of bread you eat says a lot about your economic and social status. Whole grain and artisan breads are much more expensive than white bread and thus are simply out of the reach of millions of low income people.

As I indicated earlier there is a whole lot more to "White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf" than merely the history of industrial white bread. Time and space will not permit me to detail all of the fascinating issues that Aaron Bobrow-Strain explores in this book. You will discover why crucial sociological issues such as race, class, immigration and gender have played and continue to play a pivotal role in this narrative. Meanwhile, you will also learn the critical role that bread played in helping American military strategists ward off the threat of communism in countries like France, Greece and Mexico. I apologize for the pun but there really is an awful lot to chew on in this book. "White Bread" turns out to be a very well-written and exceptionally well-researched book about a very offbeat subject. I learned an awful lot and I appreciate that. Very highly recommended!
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 A little beat around the bush 4 février 2013
Par Stephanie Crocker - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I was really engaged during the first part of the book, but towards the middle, I felt like the author rambled a bit so it was difficult to keep my interest. Some of the chapters seemed to begin with one topic and end with another. The book was more focused on the social history (which makes sense since it's the subtitle), than any of the health aspects of white bread. I thought it was interesting that the author didn't mention the impact of steel milling on the processing of bread as having a huge impact on the nutrition. Also, I thought it was interesting that the author didn't cover new strains of "white wheat" (wheat with a lighter bran layer) which have been around for the last several years. Being in the industry, I felt I had to power through the book; but I found I lost interest at the end. I thought it was strange that he ended the book with a chapter on fermentation, which, although it does apply to yeast, was a little far off left field since most of the book had been focusing on the social history. I thought a more appropriate ending would be to postulize the potential fate of the white loaf. It seems the author really only was able to differentiate between a white or wheat loaf, and really, there's a lot more to the story of white bread.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Disappointing 22 juillet 2013
Par Hudson Joe - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
Disappointing

Not a particularly pleasant read. More of a position paper and thesis. Worthwhile for those who want such insight. Light on the anecdotal history that I often enjoy in the genera.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 White Bread: A Social History 11 mai 2013
Par M. Reynard - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This was an informative book in many ways. For instance, I never had heard of "white trash parties" before this book. White Bread is something I used to feed to the geese when I was little, not something I ever ate myself. And in fact, it was always considered to be a "poorer" type of food; we ate wheat bread at home (and the brand was probably no nutritionally better than the white bread out there). So to have this book bring the social history of the bread into light was a different way of looking at things.

Bobrow-Strain takes the white loaf and leads you through time showing its sociological impacts in America. He also explores its use on the world market and how different innovations were used when making the bread and turning it into a machine driven process. There is some description of additives used to make the bread fluffy and light, the enrichments added to the bread, and the general feeling of its health benefits as well.

The general topic of this book was how white bread shaped the United States and also shaped the world. I have to say, I realize this was a social history, but I think the author was stretching a little bit when he tied in breads importance to some foreign policies and other matters. I don't doubt it was a contributing factor, but I don't think it held the kind of importance he claimed it to have. He also didn't really explore the people using the bread except to say that it's shifted several times from being a poor persons food to a rich persons food. I wish he had maybe included some interviews with real people and their thoughts on the food now to provide the contrast with the advertisements he quotes for the past decades.

The book has a lot of interesting facts. Like the Bimbo Bread company that is Mexican based yet owns a great deal of the large bakery factories in the United States. I hadn't heard of them either, but I also don't buy a lot of bread as I prefer to make my own. But the way the information was presented was not very cohesive. The author jumps all around in this book and doesn't ever complete a chapter with a single thought. It just sort of meanders here and there without purpose sometimes. And I actually found the book a bit boring in places. Especially the latter half of the book. The first part of the book was filled with enough interesting facts about Graham (yes the one who invented the Graham cracker) and other parts of history and of the making of brad itself that it was more of a pleasure to read. But when he started getting into wheat production after the wars and the foreign policy, it just kind of lost my interest. Don't get me wrong, talk about ingredients was there, but it was so interspersed with other things that you could almost blink and miss it while reading.

I'm not really sure how to classify this book. Maybe social history is a good name for it, but someone who enjoys more foodie types of books might get discouraged with the lack of actual talking about ingredients and strains and overwhelmed with all the political statistics. But a person who enjoys more general history might get more out of this book. Myself, well I fall into the first type of people, this is a solid three stars from me.

White Bread: A Social History
Copyright 2012
257 pages

Review by M. Reynard 2013
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