The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor

The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor

A lively and important argument from an award-winning journalist proving that the key to reversing America's health crisis lies in the overlooked link between nutrition and flavor.In The Dorito Effect, Mark Schatzker shows us how our approach to the nation's number one public health crisis has gotten it wrong. The epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are not t...

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Title:The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor
Author:Mark Schatzker
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Edition Language:English

The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor Reviews

  • Chrisl

    The kind of research that fascinates me. Wish I could have been the author's research accomplice. Recommend highly for folks with chemical sensitivities.

    Quote from chapter 1 ... "One day, we may look back on this obesity epidemic as a curious aberration in history when advances in analytic and synthetic chemistry outpaced our knowledge of psychology and nutrition."

    Chapter 2 ... "We eat gigantic babies. As a paper in the journal Poultry Science puts it, if humans grew as fast as broilers, 'a 3 kg

    The kind of research that fascinates me. Wish I could have been the author's research accomplice. Recommend highly for folks with chemical sensitivities.

    Quote from chapter 1 ... "One day, we may look back on this obesity epidemic as a curious aberration in history when advances in analytic and synthetic chemistry outpaced our knowledge of psychology and nutrition."

    Chapter 2 ... "We eat gigantic babies. As a paper in the journal Poultry Science puts it, if humans grew as fast as broilers, 'a 3 kg (6.6 lb) newborn baby would weigh 300 kg (660 lb) after 2 months.'"

    Chapter 3 ... "Today, synthetic flavors have infiltrated nearly all restaurants and every aisle of the supermarket. Today, there are chemicals for every need state." (Discouraging to read how the industry uses flavor chemicals to alter mood.)

    Chapter 4 starts with descriptions of brain activity from the perspective of an MRI scanner. " ... when an image of a chocolate milk shake was flashed before her eyes for two seconds ... certain parts of her brain became 'activated,' which is to say they drew in lots of blood as millions of neurons were fired ... MRI showed them glowing ... like coals in a hot fire ... Five seconds after the image of the milkshake flashed, actual chocolate milk shake was squirted into her mouth ... Now her orbitofrontal cortex, which is associated with 'reward,' was glowing hot.

    "Their food-craving brains look alarmingly like the drug-craving brains of drug addicts."

    ***

    quote from NYT article

    "While food processors must list all of the ingredients on a food label, flavor manufacturers do not have to disclose their ingredients. They can add synthetic solvents, preservatives, emulsifiers, carriers and other additives to a flavor that qualifies as natural under current regulations. ..."

    "Some food safety advocates recommend people with food allergies or dietary restrictions avoid food flavorings because the ingredients are not disclosed, but that is a difficult task. Food manufacturers add them to a surprising number of basic items, not just highly processed foods like candy, granola bars and frozen dinners but also to some cold cereals, flavored yogurts, canned soups and spaghetti sauces and even to some apple sauces and ice creams (including Breyers Natural Vanilla)."

  • Rob Haug

    Consider this a sceptic's review. Anyone who knows me, knows this is not an (audio)book I would normally grab. I already know I eat poorly. I didn't want to hear Big Agri and Big Food bashed, and I certainly didn't want to hear what a sad individual I am. I'm more surprised than anyone at my five star review. I think it was the cover that originally grabbed my attention. I also think this is the rare occasion that the audiobook may be preferable to the actual book.

    Loaded with terms like "nuritio

    Consider this a sceptic's review. Anyone who knows me, knows this is not an (audio)book I would normally grab. I already know I eat poorly. I didn't want to hear Big Agri and Big Food bashed, and I certainly didn't want to hear what a sad individual I am. I'm more surprised than anyone at my five star review. I think it was the cover that originally grabbed my attention. I also think this is the rare occasion that the audiobook may be preferable to the actual book.

    Loaded with terms like "nuritional wisdom", "plant secondary compound", "psychobiologist", "emotional deception ", and "oxidative stress", this could have been another mind numbing pseudo-scientific diatribe about how big food is killing us. There is certainly some of that in here. But, what was surprising is that the author clearly sees most of our food habits as stemming from the best of intentions. At one point he even says that a billion people would have starved without the efforts of Big Food. He doesn't excuse what they have done, so much as suggest new things that could be done to continue to feed our world with healthier, tastier food.

    I found myself smiling and laughing throughout at many of his phrases and descriptions. For example: "It's legs are so short and plump that chickens, which were once agile goose steppers, now waddle, and it's breasts are so broad and thick that modern chickens don't quite stand up straight. Today's raw chicken is the porn star of the meat world, sensationally curvy and expertly denuded."

    Or this brief introduction: "It all began with the mysterious case of the delicious urine."

    Even this: "Thus demonstrating a correlation between nutritional idiocy and economic idiocy", after people measurably received more pleasure from a wine when told it was more expensive.

    I don't know that I would describe this book as groundbreaking, but it was probably more entertaining than it had a right to be.

    If nothing else, it certainly got me to think a little more about what I eat and how I might change that.

  • Steve

    Pretty interesting read about the surprising (or maybe not so surprising) things that go into our food.

    The basic premise is that farmers and business owners have conspired to make food a lot more profitable, making it very bland in the process. We can buy huge chickens, bright red tomatoes, and many other "improved" food items in the grocery stores, but these "improvements" have come at the cost of flavor, so scientists have come up with all sorts of additives to make our food taste more like t

    Pretty interesting read about the surprising (or maybe not so surprising) things that go into our food.

    The basic premise is that farmers and business owners have conspired to make food a lot more profitable, making it very bland in the process. We can buy huge chickens, bright red tomatoes, and many other "improved" food items in the grocery stores, but these "improvements" have come at the cost of flavor, so scientists have come up with all sorts of additives to make our food taste more like the food it is supposed to be. Strawberries become "strawberry-er". Vanilla becomes "vanilla-er".

    It truth, all of the additives that go into our food is quite scary. This book helps pull the curtain back a little bit on the history of food additives and where this is potentially headed into the future.

  • Wanda

    The author provides a three point summary of his book close to the end:

    Humans are flavor seeking animals. The pleasure provided by food, which we experience as flavor, is so powerful that only the most strong-willed among us can resist it.

    In nature, there is an intimate connection between flavor and nutrition.

    Synthetic flavor technology not only breaks that connection, it also confounds it.

    We’ve been so busy trying to squeeze more food out of fewer resources, that we lost sight of the fact that

    The author provides a three point summary of his book close to the end:

    Humans are flavor seeking animals. The pleasure provided by food, which we experience as flavor, is so powerful that only the most strong-willed among us can resist it.

    In nature, there is an intimate connection between flavor and nutrition.

    Synthetic flavor technology not only breaks that connection, it also confounds it.

    We’ve been so busy trying to squeeze more food out of fewer resources, that we lost sight of the fact that food should be flavourful and nutritious—think of tomatoes, carrots, and chicken purchased in the grocery store. All of them are pretty tasteless. The vegetables are woody and unpleasant. The chicken requires brining, marinating or saucing in order to render it edible.

    Animals and people eat what they need because it tastes good. Experiments done with sheep and goats reveal that plants taste better to the animals when they need the specific nutrients that the plants provide. I remember our farm days, when the first garden lettuce was a matter of celebration, inducting us into a summer of fresh produce after a winter of more limited menu.

    Now, we have a whole industry that has learned to mimic the flavours of nutritious food. When we eat it, our systems are fooled into thinking that we are getting nutrition when all we are getting is calories. Since we need the vitamins and minerals, our bodies drive us to eat more of the same food in search of those necessities. (Have you ever found yourself obsessively eating cookies or Doritos or some other processed food, seemingly unable to stop? This is what’s going on!) We can’t reach satiation, because we haven’t met our requirements for vitamins, minerals and fibre.

    This has been a very motivating read—time to remove even more processed foods from my diet and search for fruits, vegetables, and meats that really taste like they’re supposed to, like those I remember eating while growing up on the farm.

  • Matthew Quann

    [4.5 Stars]

    Obesity is a rampant epidemic in the Western world that doubles as a herald for the dieting epidemic. The real shame, aside from the deleterious effects of dieting culture, is that just about every dieting fad ignores the biochemistry that doesn’t jive with its doctrines. Atkins will make you lose weight, but it will place you in a state of ketosis so that when you switch back to a diet containing carbohydrates, you’ll gain everything you lost. Chia seeds and coconut water for breakfa

    [4.5 Stars]

    Obesity is a rampant epidemic in the Western world that doubles as a herald for the dieting epidemic. The real shame, aside from the deleterious effects of dieting culture, is that just about every dieting fad ignores the biochemistry that doesn’t jive with its doctrines. Atkins will make you lose weight, but it will place you in a state of ketosis so that when you switch back to a diet containing carbohydrates, you’ll gain everything you lost. Chia seeds and coconut water for breakfast won’t stave off diabetes if you follow it up with a greasy burger and fries from your favorite chain. There’s no quick fix that everyone is searching for, but it can be a real pain to have to wrap your head around esoteric science.

    So, it is endlessly refreshing to listen to an audiobook that lambasts dieting culture, suggests a tragically ignored component of eating, and makes its claims based on underlying physiology.

    Oh, and Mark Schatzker is both funny and entertaining, which keeps this from being a scientific tomb that would scare off readers.

    In the days before I took up studying medicine, I did an undergraduate degree in Nutritional Biochemistry. Metabolism pathways, macronutrient use, caloric requirements, nutrient-dense foods, essential amino acids, fats, I took it all in over four years. So I can understand how it is to the dieting industry’s advantage toshrug off pesky science that the lay population will “never understand.” But here’s the genius of Mark Schatzker’s book,

    : he explains the fundamentals of biochemistry with such elegance that worries of jargon will be assuaged. Schatzker explains science as a journalist who did his research: sometimes it is simplified, but he rarely slips up.

    What’s more, Schatzker comes through with his theory, the eponymous

    that is a great overview of a budding field of research in the nutrition community. Roughly, we need to stop taking aim at fats, carbohydrates, and proteins and messing with their balance. Instead, we’ve been ignoring a crucial part of overeating: flavor. I imagine that many readers will be shocked by what lies between these pages: a food industry that can apply “natural” to a compound that replaces cinnamon with a pine cone-extract, and foods diluted in flavor by the need to be produced at an industrial level.

    Schatzker’s tour through the food industry is also an evaluation of taste, and why flavor is important. Though I was impressed with the ease with which the author explains the science, it was more of a refresher for me than new discovery. With the second half, Schatzker dives in to the reasons for the development of flavor: why it was important for our ancestors to be able to identify food by flavour instead of eating indistinguishable leaves. Flavour dilution was also a concept with which I was unfamiliar but made intuitive sense when it was explained.

    So what keeps this from the full five stars? Well, for a book that relies so heavily on science, some of the book’s ending conclusions are more extrapolation that hard scientific fact. This can be slightly forgiven for the relative infancy of the field of flavor research. It may well be that changing to natural flavour (read:

    natural flavor) may help to remedy the obesity epidemic, and it is a novel route to solving the problem, but it is unsubstantiated by a randomized controlled trial.

    This book satisfied me as both a foodie and a former nutrition major. What’s more, I think that this book presents a real possible solution to the state of eating in the Western world: it isn’t simple, and it requires work, but it is also sustainable and more gastronomically satisfying. It is also a lot of fun to listen to, and I’m sure that it would be just as compelling a read (that way you could skip over the endless chemical names, which the narrator reads in the audiobook edition).

    This is a nutrition book for those tired of nutrition books, and I highly recommend anyone with any interest to give it a read!

    [Review of Audiobook]

  • KatieMc

    Opps. Library book got returned before I could write a review and my bookmarks are lost so I don't have all my bookmarked notes. Review from memory.

    The Dorito Effect is an interesting take on food, nutrition and our love of eating things we shouldn't. The premise that fresh food has been engineered for maximum yield and flavor has been lost. No controversy there, we all know that those beautiful unblemished red tomatoes tastes like cardboard. As a result, we add flavors, like that addictive chee

    Opps. Library book got returned before I could write a review and my bookmarks are lost so I don't have all my bookmarked notes. Review from memory.

    The Dorito Effect is an interesting take on food, nutrition and our love of eating things we shouldn't. The premise that fresh food has been engineered for maximum yield and flavor has been lost. No controversy there, we all know that those beautiful unblemished red tomatoes tastes like cardboard. As a result, we add flavors, like that addictive cheesy stuff on Cheetos. Historically flavor meant nutrition and our inclination seek variety of flavors is beneficial because it led to balanced nutrition. However, vitamin supplements and flavored foods confuse this flavor/nutrition association. The good news is that technology got us into this mess, and the author things that technology get us out of this mess.

    Audiobook gripe - don't refer to the book as an audiobook! I don't know who thinks its a good idea, but it sounds really stupid, especially when you refer to the

    of the audiobook.

    Audiobook narrator comment - squeeeee, Adrien English read me this book.

    Update - free the week of 7/13-19/2017 at:

  • Kay

    I’d give this book 3-1/2 stars if I could, as I found it interesting, on the whole, but I frequently had second thoughts or reservations concerning the author’s claims. Disclaimer: I listened to this book, rather than read it, so my recollection of the material may be less than perfect.

    has a snazzy title, breezy style, and is pitched at wide audience, all of which I think are commendable. However, I do think the author exhibits a tendency to stand on a soapbox proclaiming the

    I’d give this book 3-1/2 stars if I could, as I found it interesting, on the whole, but I frequently had second thoughts or reservations concerning the author’s claims. Disclaimer: I listened to this book, rather than read it, so my recollection of the material may be less than perfect.

    has a snazzy title, breezy style, and is pitched at wide audience, all of which I think are commendable. However, I do think the author exhibits a tendency to stand on a soapbox proclaiming the book’s basic premise, which is that nutrition and flavor have parted ways in modern food production. A new industry, which produces those lost flavors artificially, has stepped in and flavor has been added back to processed foods – but, alas, not nutrition. Our bodies, seeking nutrition, are never satisfied, and we consume more and more in a forlorn quest for what we need but aren’t getting. An obesity and health epidemic results.

    You might say that Schatzker has a dog in the modern food fights, and that dog is flavor. However, I think he has oversimplified the issue, which is more complex than merely a degradation of food and soulless schilling of faux flavor. I’m an obese person who eats remarkably little junk food – and, in fact, back when I was a heavyset child living on farms eating quite healthy and flavorful food, I was keenly aware that there seemed to be something odd going on, something which seemed almost beyond my control. I realized that to achieve a “normal” weight I needed to eat less than others, get more exercise, and be forever vigilant, or the weight would come right back on. This was in the 1950’s, in an age when McDonald’s and Doritos and the like were not yet the nutritional norm. There were fewer fat people, but there

    ones, nonetheless.

    Thus, I’m always skeptical when someone claims that the rise of obesity is linked to… well, any one factor. I don’t think that Schatzker does that here, but I am suspicious of his claims that we eat more because we are unsuccessfully seeking lost nutrients and driven by a constant barrage of artificial flavor goading us to eat more, more, MORE.

    I think, rather, that the sad fact is that there are multiple factors behind obesity and any one approach – eating “real” food, for example, or seeking out “real” flavors, which Schatzker advocates – will not suffice to tackle the problem. What of our sedentary lifestyle, tendency to drive where we once walked, the decline of home cooking and simultaneous rise of fast food, the overconsumption of sugar (still, after all these years, just

    sans much in the way of flavor additives, but added to nearly everything), modern-day pressures holding to an impossible standard of beauty (resulting, perversely, in frustrated and guilty binge eating), the tendency of children to play with electronic gadgets indoors rather than blow off steam running around (in my generation's case, largely unsupervised) outdoors not to mention that their parents are far more likely to be binge-watching Netflix or pro football rather than going out bowling or dancing, the effects of a 24/7 non-stop media food image advertising blitz, and, perhaps most importantly, the huge government subsidies for corn, wheat, and soy farmers but absolutely NO subsidies for any other type of arguably healthier farming?

    Thus, a poor family can afford to eat little other than Doritos and other foods which are, regardless of their mind-numbing variety, basically all one form or another of corn (including, of course, the ubiquitous corn syrup), wheat, or soy. Sure, there are legumes, rice, and other foods on the grocery shelves, but they almost universally require more time to prepare and, just as importantly, more knowledge.

    , however, makes no mention of this appalling state-sanctioned nutritional malfeasance. It lays the blame squarely at the doorstep of the flavor/nutrition divide. While I’m sure that Schatzker is correct in saying that modern produce and livestock are less flavorful -- and who, really, does not already know this? – I don’t think there is as great a benefit to be found in a dogged search for the best flavor as he claims. This pursuit struck me as a sort of perverse elitism: it requires time, knowledge (again), money, and an educated palate.

    I belong to a CSA (community-supported agriculture service), yet in honesty, I am not all that hung up on which variety of tomato (and I receive at least a dozen) that I receive in each week’s CSA box. Schatzker, on the other hand, devotes a substantial section of his book to describing a banquet he has a noted chef prepare using what he (Schatzker) has decreed is the ultimate tomato, strawberry, chicken, lettuce, and so on. I could not help but think, “Oh, here we go again: a STUNT book!” (And by that I mean, the central episode relies on some novelty, like the purported

    , or some other attention-grabbing stunt.) In short, I was not terribly impressed by Schatzker’s almost religious quest to find “the best” flavor.

    I was also somewhat bemused by his attention to, indeed, devotion to, certain plant and animal breeders. He seemed to regard them with a certain reverence, but I’d say in doing so he missed a very important point, one that was brought home to me recently watching an episode of “Chef’s Table” about the pioneering chef Dan Barber. Barber and his colleagues work tirelessly to produce flavorful produce and livestock, but they do it not so much by selective breeding but by tirelessly working on soil management and improvement, close attention to crop rotation, and above all, eating seasonally. It is, in other words, a practice suited more to small-scale operations and the well-heeled clients of Barber’s restaurants. However, Barber does have a broader mission to bring these practices into the mainstream, and I assume he writes of these in his recent book,

    , which I hope to read soon.

    But getting back to

    , suffice it to say that I was somewhat disappointed that the author gave so little shrift to sustainable farm practices, the imbalancing effect of government subsidies, and ways to incorporate truly nutritional food in a practical and affordable way into the national diet.

    Having said all that, here’s what I liked unreservedly about the book: I loved the geeky parts. Yes, especially when it involved plant-insect communication, the dissection of modern farm practices (fattening of cattle, breeding of monster chickens, and feeding of pigs), what plants goats would or would not eat, Schatzker’s forays into various flavor labs, gas chromatography, and all the multisyllabic splendor of compounds that are the essences of vanilla, chocolate, and many other treasured flavors. Those parts of the book, I well realize, may have been off-putting to some readers, but I personally enjoyed them.

    Schatzker also cites the seminal book on this subject,

    , and makes an earnest attempt to move Pollan’s thesis on a bit, though I’m not sure he succeeds. The last section of the book parrots Pollan’s “Food Rules” without its effectiveness, but still it is an honest effort to point the reader in the right direction. And I practically cheered when Schatzker pointed out the folly of trying to eat “organically” – for it has been far too long that “organic” foods occupied pride of place in the healthy eating stakes, when in fact there is practically no regulation or research to support such claims.

    In the final analysis, I must say that

    book that engages us in a consideration of modern food, the food industry, and the national health epidemics that plague us is one that should receive attention and consideration. Although I’ve made many criticisms here,

    is an honest, personal, and approachable book, and it engaged me in a significant way and really made me think.

  • Bookworm

    I'll still want Doritos though... The information in the book is probably not going to be too shocking for anyone who takes an interest in what goes into our food, why flavors are the way they are, and why processed foods are bad. Author Schatzker takes the reader though histories, experiments and stories of how and why we have changed what we eat and why we now have such high prevalence of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

     

    But I couldn't help but find the book very disjointed. We star

    I'll still want Doritos though... The information in the book is probably not going to be too shocking for anyone who takes an interest in what goes into our food, why flavors are the way they are, and why processed foods are bad. Author Schatzker takes the reader though histories, experiments and stories of how and why we have changed what we eat and why we now have such high prevalence of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

     

    But I couldn't help but find the book very disjointed. We start off with a history of Weight Watchers, then move into how flavor and the birth of Doritos change what humans like to eat and the tastes that go with it. As the author says, "flavor matters." Perhaps that's why there are so many odd recipe combinations to mix together different tastes and textures.

     

    Unsurprisingly, I wasn't shocked when I found the author is a journalist. I still don't know what it is, but books by journalists rarely sit well with me and that's the case here. My interest just waxed and waned and I found I just did not care as much as the I did when I first head about the book's premise. Overall I found the book a real struggle to get through.

     

    Personally after I read this I thought of Michael Moss's 'Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us' as a another book with similar themes and thought was much better. Library for this one.

     

  • Katie

    Chicken. Chicken. Chicken. Chicken. Interesting Fact. Chicken.

    I think I would have enjoyed this more if it has been a lengthy article than a book. I understand there's more to the book than chickens, but that's the wha the reading experience felt like to me. I enjoyed his overall message, but I had trouble getting through this.

  • David Dinaburg

    This surplus of verbiage happens a few other times in

    ; this just happens to be the final one in the book, not special or more egregious than the others. To excerpt more than one would run counter to the complaint that a tedious pile of synonyms is unnecessary; i

    This surplus of verbiage happens a few other times in

    ; this just happens to be the final one in the book, not special or more egregious than the others. To excerpt more than one would run counter to the complaint that a tedious pile of synonyms is unnecessary; it doesn’t add emphasis and it isn’t clever unless you’re writing a title for a children’s book. It is, however, a bellwether for the type of writing that abounds within the pages. Even the titling was an irritant; the marketplace is flush with overzealous, unsupported shock

    .

    is

    only in its lack of depth,

    only in anecdote and supposition, and replete with

    only if you are incredibly cavalier with definitions.

    As the Monarch butterfly’s regal coloring serves to warn birds they aren’t going to like what they eat, this book’s cover had one more signal that something unpleasant lurks inside; One of the back-quote blurbs is written by renowned anti-science physician Dr. Andrew Weil, whose most flattering description is “

    " A more-subtle Dr. Oz is still…Dr. Oz…but the book does make some compelling arguments and pull a few salient points, even if the narrative tone tends to err on the unpleasant side of casual flippancy:

    Yes, food is complicated. And so is people’s relationship with food. The

    conducted a study into food choice; among the six determinants, biological determinants such as hunger, appetite and taste were but one. Under economic determinants there were cost, income, and availability; under physical determinants access, education, preparatory skills such as cooking, and available time—for both shopping, nutritional research, and cooking all played a part; culture, family, peers, and meal patterns all fall under social determinants; mood, stress, and guilt were investigated under psychological determinants.

    exists in a vacuum, eschewing all determinants except for a single biological drive—taste. The argument for taste is propped up mostly by animal studies, which take up at least a third of the text; overreaching statements like, “

    desire

    ” abound, which is all well and good if biological determinants were the sole cause of human consumption as in most of the animal studies referenced. But

    doesn’t even pay lip service to the dozen or so obvious issues surrounding a McDonald’s Happy Meal: wrapped in a colorful box, it also contains a toy and has been used by millions of families as an affordable reward for their children for earning high marks in school or as an incentive for waking up for 5am for swim practice. In an outdoor pool. In April. In Upstate New York. (Okay, that one may have been specific to me).

    Nor does the book ever acknowledge the association that a Chuck E. Cheese’s pizza party—where anthropomorphic animatronic creatures sing to a boy or girl while he or she gets all the attention, all the praise, and presents!—might bind the joy of feeling special with the smell of melted cheese and baked pepperoni. Or the rush of processed sugar and blue-raspberry flavoring from the lollipop he or she earned from acting brave before getting a shot at the doctor’s office might create a strong desire for a sugar rush before potentially scary situations later in life. Or, perhaps, intense feeling of safety and love the first bite into a silver dollar pancake unleashes—a home-sick-from-school-breakfast-in-bed-only taste—might bring back, a contemporary suburban American version of Proust and his madeleine.

    These are but a scant few examples of how culture and society have wrapped themselves around our diets; there is so much more to human nutrition and craving-consumption variance than, “What nutrients do we lack so we know what to eat?” Even the counter-examples listed have focused solely on psychological determinants; a comprehensive list of hypothetical human determinants for diet would be, well, a European Food Information Council study, not a book review. “

    ” is the exact type of reductionist argument that the opening section

    purports to rail against—it is “sugar is to blame” wrapped in a shiny new box.

    As if it were not enough to completely gloss over the entirety of human emotional and mental connection to eating—removing a vast history of culturalization and ritualization that food has undergone over millennia—and reducing humanity to animalistic consumption of nutrients—which, if you swap “calories” for “nutrients” is an argument the author himself undercuts—there is absolutely no mention of the socioeconomic burdens of nutrition. In fact, there is elitism and shaming, written in a smug tone that is simply unenjoyable to read:

    Ignoring the fact that langoustines are garbage-eating ocean bugs that were only the purview of the poor two-hundred years ago and have been

    as a delicacy by the very industry that “doesn’t care about real flavor,” the author discusses two times where he himself opts for the maligned “pinnacle of human cuisine”:

    He went went to fast-food restaurant with his family on a road trip because it was convenient and he has young children; standard to the point of being clichéd. This could have been the opportunity for the book to discuss the social reasons why McDonald’s might be relevant to our culture—hungry children, financial concerns, travel-based ignorance of local cuisine, ease of access—and instead he chooses to write a personal anecdote to how he ordered another burger and then, looking at all the overweight people in the McDonald’s, threw it away in disgust after eating only half. The very essence of an insubstantial story, the written equivalent of “empty calories.” The next anecdote has enough similarity to the first that and a writer who less interested supporting his pre-established theory may have contrasted the two and unearthed some interesting questions:

    can be a food desert—why not make mention that access is a crucial aspect of diet, much like in the McDonald’s story? The author was on a trip in a car and couldn’t find any other food; a pattern is emerging around the convenience of being able to feed yourself when you’re away from home. Yet failing to plan how to eat isn’t a failure of “the flavor industry;” it is an endemic issue of a society that is always in motion, or a symptom of a lack of time in the traveler—to research healthy options, to pack a lunch—or a physical restriction because there simply isn’t enough of a demand right off the highway to support anything other than pizzarias. The Denny’s jibe—“

    ”—further underscores that it is not ignorance of the socioeconomic impact on diet and nutrition at work in

    , but an active contempt:

    The colloquial “

    ” phrasing makes it seem like a folksy choice to be frugal rather than a necessity based on circumstance or mental state or—harkening back to the author’s own car trips—convenience. And the specter of impossibility—that we do not have enough arable land to feed the world—is mentioned more than once:

    With nary a hint of foreshadowing or an iota of acknowledgement that these statements will be completely contradicted near the conclusion of the book, it appears obvious what

    thinks about industrial agriculture versus small-scale, heirloom produce. And then, abruptly:

    So you can have your cake and eat it too. All of that talk about pricing out the poor and running out of land were scare tactics, meant only to further shine the golden halo of industrial solutionism. That’s simply despicable. To make such a tactic palatable, all that was required was to mention—during the fearmongering scenes—that there may be a solution already in the works. But rather than add an honest clarity to a sincere concern,

    spends its time lingering over its cake—making the reader think that only smaller portions of “real” food can save the planet—until, voila, you can have industrial agriculture after all!

    Then comes the eating of the cake—literally. The entire final chapter is self-indulgent at best and a filler to meet page-limit obligations at worst. Ten percent of an already sparse book is spent listing the preparatory steps of the author’s attempt to personally put together a dinner party celebrating “real flavor.” This involves shipping produce, sending invitations to the professionals that he had interviewed for the book, and ruminating on how sustained one feels after such a feast. It was the closest

    ever got to discussing human consumption of food as a culture-based ritual—rather than a simplified rubric of required-nutrient intake—so it is no surprise that the participants claimed to walk away from the invigorating social event feeling more satisfied.

    A question lingers, however; given the hypothesis that things taste good to people to signify to their bodies that the food they are eating contains nutrients they need, how is it that a dozen or so highly distinguished professionals from all over the country—with regional, cultural, and general differences in diet that likely precludes being identically, or even similarly, low in identical nutrients—would all be sated to the same extreme after eating an identical meal? Food is complicated. The truth is, it would all be so much simpler if it really were just flavor’s fault.

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