Skip to main content

Book 28 of 52: A Short History of the American Stomach by Frederick Kaufman

I wanted to like Frederick Kaufman's A Short History of the American Stomach. I really did. How could I not? I write about health and fitness, and I think a lot about our country's love/hate relationship with food. It's hard to ignore it when you consider that 66 percent of American adults are obese or overweight, yet every woman staring at you from a magazine cover is impossibly, photo shopped thin.

But I thought there might be a problem with the book when I opened it because of one factor and one factor only: the font size.

This is a generously spaced book. The font size is on par with those of young adult novels (it reminded me of Spanking Shakespeare, which was book 3 of 52). A lot of the quotes aren't included in paragraphs but broken apart from the narrative. For example, say this block you're reading right now was a portion of the book.

The quote would be hung out to dry like this.

And the narrative would continue on. It's not uncommon to see blocks of longer quotes in books, but some of the blocked out quotes were only a sentence long, and some pages has two, even three of them, each.

My instincts were right: this is an unfocused book. What I hoped would be an intense study of food culture is intead a glossing over. There's little about Kosher diets, and almost nothing about veganism. I expected at least something about anorexia and bulemia, and got nothing exept how the Puritans embraced it. Even in parts where Kaufman could have delved into modern examples of the binge/fast split -- like a food eating contest -- his descriptions are short and bland.

And I have to question the accuracy of the book, too. Toward the end, Kaufman writes: "I had even examined the social elements of pumpkin mania and could have told the story of the dedicated pumpkin hobbyist who had watered and manured an Atlantic Giant until it weighed more than 1300 pounds. A world record." Anyone who's read Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever or read anything about giant pumpkin growing knows that the world champion weight is over 1500 pounds -- and has been since 2006 (and even the 2005 winner was over 1400 pounds).

I struggled to finish the book. I'm not sure I would have made it through if I didn't have a review assigned (and I struggled with that, too).

If you have an interest in this topic, I suggest picking up David Kamp's The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution. Even though it doesn't try to tackle the binge/fast topic, it does cover more about the evolution of the American menu, and it's a well researched, interesting and fun read. It'll take a lot longer to munch through than A Short History of the American Stomach, but, then again, with the way this book is spaced, just about every other grown up book will.


Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Popular posts from this blog

Book 12 of 52: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an author and graphic novelist who grew up in Iran and, as a tween and teen, lived in the country through  the Iranian Revolution before her parents sent her to Europe for school, and for her safety.  As an adult, she wrote Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ,  a nonfiction graphic novel, originally in French. I read the English translation, which was published in 2003, three years after the original. It was a critical success, won a slew of awards, and became a movie . I haven't read the sequel, Persepolis 2 , but I hope to (you can also  buy them in a set . I found Persepolis  in a Little Free Library, or I'd have bought them combined).  In the tradition of Art Spiegelman's  Maus , which is about the author's father talking to him about the Holocaust,  Persepolis  is a memoir of trauma told through a mix of images and words that when combined, combust into powerful, beautiful and soul cracking art.  For example, Satrapi portrays the 1978 Cinema R

Book 23 of 52: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

More romance? Of course! The world is on fire, and I can't ingest all the fires all the time. Sometimes I want to turn to genre fiction as an escape, even if an escape is into a patriarchal society where it's SCANDAL that a woman sometimes, when riding a horse, wears pants. Because of Miss Bridgerton is the first book in Julia Quinn's Rokesbys Series , which are prequels to her enormously popular  Bridgerton Series  (and now a  Netflix show ). These books are similar, of course, but instead being set in the Recency era of the 1810s, these books take place at the same time as the American Revolution (though still in England).  Here we meet Sybilla "Bille" Bridergton, who is stuck on the roof of a building because she chased a cat up there. She climbed up herself (scandalous woman!) but also twisted her ankle in the process, which is why she needs help to get down.  That help comes from George Rokesby. Their families are neighbors, and they've known each other

Book 26 of 52: The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown

I'm not going to write a long review of Tina Brown's The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil  for two reasons. First, it's been hashed to death already, as anything about the royals is, by people who are far more invested in this whole thing than I am. And second, I'm in the frantic "do I really need a jean jacket AND a windbreaker" level of packing before a long trip. I can say that I didn't mind listening to this nearly 18 hour audiobook while the rest of the world is on fire, although of course they are not insulated. We can pretend that the Royal Family lives in a bubble, but they are enormously influential; touched by the same issues of race, class and gender; and Queen Elizabeth II is one of most influential politicians of modern times — and she is a politician, no matter what anyone says. Her death will be a global, cultural moment. Same thing with the Pope, on both fronts. I listened to Brown's  The Diana Chro