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Contents:


  1. Now More Than Ever
  2. Book Review: White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf
  3. White Bread : NPR
  4. A Social History Of The Store-Bought Loaf
  5. White Bread

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.

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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 new future, a world away from the hot, dusty, "dirty" bakeries run by immigrants.

Now More Than Ever

This bread, the original "superfood," was fortified with vitamins and marketed as patriotic. However, sixties counterculture made white bread an icon of all that was wrong with America.


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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 is not a particularly creative name for a cow, but my wife, Kate, and I came up with a lot more colorful monikers: 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.

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.

Book Review: White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf

This unease has haunted Americans since they first began to grasp the existence of an invisible world of small, possibly threatening organisms. Until mandated pasteurization, milk was a key vector for typhoid and other serious diseases. 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. 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 Pure Food and Drug Act.

White Bread : NPR

Unfortunately, their efforts were far from perfect and were steadily watered down over the next century. Serious food-borne illnesses affected millions and sent hundreds of thousands to hospitals during the s and early s.


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Food safety regulations, some with roots in , appeared impotent in the face of a far-flung global food sys- tem dominated by powerful corporations. It felt like the s 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.

A Social History Of The Store-Bought Loaf

Accurately or not, a simple loaf of bread from a small urban bakery seemed to many consumers a harbinger of death and disease. 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. 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. As this book makes this incredible journey up to today, it is never about taste.

Probably an echo from Puritan times.

White Bread

In fact, throughout the entire book, one theme keeps coming up: White bread has very little or no taste. It never was about taste. It was a vehicle for enrichment, the first of the enriched foods we eat today. Enrichment did help put the vitamins and minerals into bodies depleted by years of the Great Depression, and in this sense, it was a good thing.

It was used to demonstrate the superiority of U. So here we are today, about years after the founding of industrial bread, with Wonder Bread itself in deep financial trouble, and white bread being held up as a form of junk food.