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Month: June 2009

Food, Inc. (the movie)

Hungry for Change?

“In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA….Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms’ Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here…”

Urban farming movement ‘like a revolution’

By Dave M. Matthews

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — On a plot of soil, nestled against the backdrop of skyscrapers in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, a group of residents are turning a lack of access to fresh produce into a revival of old traditions and self-empowerment.

On numerous occasions Pollan refers to the work of Dr. T. Colin Campbell. Campbell is the author of countless articles, but also the author of a well known and very controversial book called The China Study. While Campbell’s book and lectures do ultimately support the mantra, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The science employed to make the claim is considerably different. Campbell also takes a much firmer position on animal products that has earned him an interesting reputation. In some ways, Dr. T. Colin Campbell represents the scientist that Pollan criticizes in the first section of his book. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. A read of his position and the controversy surrounding his position might be interesting to readers of In Defense of Food. Much of the controversy surrounding Campbell has come from the Weston A. Price Foundation. However, thoughts and opinions about his work can be found all over the internet.

Slow economy, slow food?

In “Out of the Office: Fast Bikes, Slow Food, and the Workplace Wars” (New Yorker June 22, 2009), Kalefah Sanneh discusses a number of books that signal an “artisanal revival,” in the way people eat and work, linking the popularization of the trend to the economic downturn. Sanneh says, “this artisanal revival has been particularly pronounced among foodies, thanks in part to the writer Michael Pollan, who helped popularize an American variant of the Italian culinary-agrarian movement known as Slow Food. In ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ and ‘In Defense of Food,” Pollan surveyed the excesses of the ‘industrial food chain’ and paid thoughtful tribute to small farms and local produce.” Sanneh points out that, “the genius of this loosely organized movement is that it’s not a labor movement; it’s a consumer movement.”

Food System or Farm System

Thank you to all who have already posted here. I would like to propose one simple tool for evaluating the work we are all now reading. My suggestion is not novel and extends across disciplines so widely that perhaps it does not need to be repeated. However, I fear a discussion as broad as the one that is likely to happen here might become worthless without a framework for engaging the work. What I suggest is that we engage this text in part by identifying the questions being asked and identifying those that are not being asked. Answering questions is, of course, important, but a simple outline of the questions is quite telling. What questions did Pollan have on his mind as this work moved forward? What questions does the narrative address and which questions does it leave out. Suggesting, that some questions have been left out is not meant to be a critique at all. Telling a story or conducting an experiment requires us to bound our questions and inquiry. I do feel, however, that failure to recognize the limits of a story or of research can be dangerous. I think we will more richly understand the important contributions of the work we are now reading by engaging in this exercise. I titled this entry, Food System or Farm System as this represents a question for me (perhaps not for you). I have farmed most of my life and now work closely with farmers. I often wonder whether the questions we ask are questions about food systems or farm systems. Now, I recognize that many might not create the distinction I just created, but it is has utility for me. For example, what questions might a farmer who depends on production to provide for his or her family be asking that are not represented in our reading? Likewise, what questions are being asked here that are not being considered by your favorite farmer? Why might they differ? What can the questions tell us about the complexity of the system and how it might operate?

Sampling Cookbook Collections

As we enjoy access to several months of great farm-market food, you may find yourself wondering how to prepare or store the bounty. If this is your conundrum of late, consider browsing Steenbock Library’s cookbook collection to find recipes to old standards and new flavors.

The cookbook collection began with a generous donation in 1965 by Madison resident Mortimer Levitan as a memorial to his mother. This initial donation included 2615 titles. Today, the cookbook collection continues to grow and focuses upon culinary history, trends, and regional and world cuisines.

Should you wish to sample the cookbook collection, it can be browsed in the first floor book stacks, (TX call-number range) and vertical files (filing cabinets). In addition to the cookbook collection at Steenbock, other cookbooks, of popular interest, can be found at College Library. Ebling Library also has cookbooks–many that address dining and food considerations during health events or enduring medical conditions. All books can be found using the MadCat catalog–keyword, “cookery” for the comprehensive list. Otherwise, speak with your friendly campus librarians for assistance.

Bon appetit!

Farm Fresh Atlas

Think globally, but eat locally, using the Southern Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas! Use the atlas to locate farms, markets and restaurant partners who supply fresh, area-grown produce and food products. Do note that many of the area growers welcome visitors with special events, u-pick options, hay-rides and tours. The 2009 print edition of the atlas was initially released at the first Dane County Farmers’ Market of the season on April 18. It can still be found at several university and Madison-area locations, including Steenbock Library. Should you be looking for options, apart from the southern Wisconsin area, consult the sites for Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlases or Local Harvest. The Farm Fresh Atlas has been developed by the REAP Food Group in cooperation with the Dane County Farmers’ Market, the Friends of the Dane County Farmers’ Market, and the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems.

Recipe for Victory: Food and Cooking in Wartime

Mock fish created from hominy grits and nuts? Or better yet, a bratwurst made of beans? To quote Rachel Ray, “Yummo!”

On behalf of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center (UWDCC), I’d like to share with you one of our digital collections that complements some of the key issues and themes raised in this year’s Go Big Read selection, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan.

Created from materials housed at Steenbock library and selected by Information Services Librarian Barbara Hamel, Recipe for Victory: Food and Cooking in Wartime ( presents books and government publications documenting our national effort to promote and implement a plan to make food the key to winning World War I.

This online collection contains materials that explain the world food situation, the nutritional value of foods, how to grow productive gardens in less than ideal conditions, and cookbooks with recipes for dealing with scarcity of various commodities such as meat and wheat. Many of the materials in this collection were published by the University of Wisconsin, Agricultural Extension Service between 1917 and 1919.

As head of the U. S. Food Administration, Herbert Hoover launched a campaign to conserve food at the onset of World War I. Americans were urged to cut food waste, substitute scarce for plentiful ingredients and participate in a food-conservation program popularly known as “Hooverizing,” which included wheatless Mondays and Wednesdays, meatless Tuesdays, and porkless Thursdays and Saturdays.

While circumstances for this particular attention to our nation’s food and consumption issues may differ from those inspiring Pollan’s recent works, titles such as Vernon Kellogg’s The Food Problem (1918) and Edmund Spriggs’ Food and How to Save it (1918) provide historical context for better understanding nutrition, conservation, food industry and economics and Americans’ eating habits, in general, during that period.

And, nearly 100 years later, the lessons ring oddly familiar. In her forward to Wheatless and Meatless Days (1918), Pauline Dunwell Partridge advises readers to “more extensively use vegetables and fruits, eliminate waste and consume more freely, locally grown perishable foods.”

For a complete list of titles included in this online library collection, visit:

Recipe for Victory: Food and Cooking in Wartime

For more information about the UWDCC, visit our Web site at

Welcome to the Go Big Read Blog!

The Chancellor has selected In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan, as our inaugural common book. We welcome you to participate in Go Big Read by reading the book, attending the public lecture scheduled for September 24th, and participating in discussions and other programming to take place throughout the year.

The goals of Go Big Read include generating vigorous discussions and exchanges of diverse ideas; promoting connections among students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the wider community; and tapping into the intellectual resources of the campus. This blog will be a venue for the sharing of ideas across communities, and we are soliciting contributions from individuals who bring a broad range of perspectives. We invite you to make suggestions for viewpoints and topics you would like to see represented and to comment on the blog posts.

We are fortunate in Wisconsin to be home to vibrant communities of interest around reading, agriculture, food and sustainability. Our university is home to individuals who can approach the topics discussed in In Defense of Food from many different disciplinary and personal perspectives. Our alumni and community members will bring additional viewpoints and experiences to our conversations.

Many of us feel passionately about the issues in the book, and this blog will be one venue to engage in constructive conversations and debates. Go Big Read is intended for everyone who would like to participate, whether we are engaged in these issues at home, in our work, as citizens, as learners, or as volunteers.

Sarah McDaniel
Project Manager, Go Big Read