April 06, 2013

Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal by Melanie Warner

Ok, so if you're picking up this book it's probably because you agree with what it's saying already. Personally I don't mind that, because I am one of those people who agrees with what the book is about. And in this case, Pandora's Lunchbox takes a look at processed food in the American diet. And it is kind of scary.

There are thousands of additives that can be found in our food anymore. Ranging from things that help flavor, to dough conditioners, to texture enhancers, a simple piece of breaded chicken is no longer so simple. Or sometimes it's not even chicken. The author takes a look at how these additives are made, what they go into, and who the people are that develop them. She also researches historically to see who first invented this way of transforming our food, and even some safe food pioneers that helped get the FDA on its feet in the beginning.

While Warner doesn't come outright and say any of these people are evil, she isn't sugar coating what they are doing either. All the food scientist she meets it would seem she asks the hard question of why we even do this sort of thing to our food. But she does take the time to note the extensive education and research that goes into developing these additives, and gives them their dues there. These are not stupid people researching food flavorings or stabilizers. And she also meets with people on the other side, although not as extensively. Towards the end she relates the story of a family who went off of processed food and how it improved their health.

There was a lot of research done for this book and I appreciate the many attempts at interviewing people at the companies that make the processed food, even if they didn't always respond. At least she tried. And some of what she found what quite alarming. I don't want to give it away, but the guacamole story she had was VERY interesting. And I will make my own guacamole from now on probably. None of what she covers in this book is anything new, we all know that fresh foods are infinitely better for us than a frozen pizza, but some of what she finds is surprising. Like the use of additives in the organic and natural markets. I definitely learned a lot that I didn't already know in this book and as I sit looking at my soda that I'm drinking, it makes me feel bad about what I'm eating. Which is probably why my grandmother tells me to stop reading these kinds of books because she's frustrated with the foods I won't eat. Really, my only complaint about this book would be that it rambles at times. There were a few times where I became disinterested and found myself hurrying through to get to the next interesting fact.

I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. Buying whole foods and cooking them, but I will start trying to quit soda again, even if I will miss the caffeine. And I'll pay more attention to the natural products I buy too. A very good book for those people that are interested in what goes into their food.

Pandora's Lunchbox
Copyright 2013
249 pages

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