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Devoured

Cover of Devoured

Devoured

From Chicken Wings to Kale Smoothies--How What We Eat Defines Who We Are

A provocative look at how and what Americans eat and why—a flavorful blend of The Omnivore's Dilemma, Salt Sugar Fat, and Freakonomics that reveals how the way we live shapes the way we eat.

Food writer and Culinary Institute of America director Sophie Egan takes readers on an eye-opening journey through the American food psyche, examining the connections between the values that define our national character—work, freedom, and progress—and our eating habits, the good and the bad. Egan explores why these values make for such an unstable, and often unhealthy, food culture and, paradoxically, why they also make America's cuisine so great.

Egan raises a host of intriguing questions: Why does McDonald's have 107 items on its menu? Why are breakfast sandwiches, protein bars, and gluten-free anything so popular? Will bland, soulless meal replacements like Soylent revolutionize our definition of a meal? The search for answers takes her across the culinary landscape, from the prioritization of convenience over health to the unintended consequences of "perks" like free meals for employees; from the American obsession with "having it our way" to the surge of Starbucks, Chipotle, and other chains individualizing the eating experience; from high culture—artisan and organic and what exactly "natural" means—to low culture<em>the sale of 100 million Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos in ten weeks. She also looks at how America's cuisine—like the nation itself—has been shaped by diverse influences from across the globe.

Devoured weaves together insights from the fields of psychology, anthropology, food science, and behavior economics as well as myriad examples from daily life to create a powerful and unique look at food in America.

A provocative look at how and what Americans eat and why—a flavorful blend of The Omnivore's Dilemma, Salt Sugar Fat, and Freakonomics that reveals how the way we live shapes the way we eat.

Food writer and Culinary Institute of America director Sophie Egan takes readers on an eye-opening journey through the American food psyche, examining the connections between the values that define our national character—work, freedom, and progress—and our eating habits, the good and the bad. Egan explores why these values make for such an unstable, and often unhealthy, food culture and, paradoxically, why they also make America's cuisine so great.

Egan raises a host of intriguing questions: Why does McDonald's have 107 items on its menu? Why are breakfast sandwiches, protein bars, and gluten-free anything so popular? Will bland, soulless meal replacements like Soylent revolutionize our definition of a meal? The search for answers takes her across the culinary landscape, from the prioritization of convenience over health to the unintended consequences of "perks" like free meals for employees; from the American obsession with "having it our way" to the surge of Starbucks, Chipotle, and other chains individualizing the eating experience; from high culture—artisan and organic and what exactly "natural" means—to low culture<em>the sale of 100 million Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos in ten weeks. She also looks at how America's cuisine—like the nation itself—has been shaped by diverse influences from across the globe.

Devoured weaves together insights from the fields of psychology, anthropology, food science, and behavior economics as well as myriad examples from daily life to create a powerful and unique look at food in America.

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About the Author-
  • Sophie Egan is the director of programs and culinary nutrition for the Strategic Initiatives Group at The Culinary Institute of America. Based in San Francisco, Egan is a contributor to the New York Times's Well blog, and has written about food and health for KQED, Wired, and Sunset magazine, where she worked on The Sunset Cookbook and The One-Block Feast. She holds a master of public health from University of California, Berkeley, with a focus on health and social behavior, and a bachelor of arts with honors in history from Stanford University.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 28, 2016
    Egan, a food writer and director of the Culinary Institute of America, has a front row seat on the machinations of the American food industry and Americans’ bizarre eating habits, and in this engrossing study she shows how the sturdy American values of work, freedom, and progress have negatively influenced the industrial food system. She explains that the quest for convenience has created a “muddle of the modern meal”; delves into the phenomenon of desktop dining, now the norm for 40% of American office workers; and chronicles the marketing of low-fat, natural, and gluten-free foods (the “selling of absence”), which may not always be the healthiest way to eat. A disturbing chapter on “stunt foods” illustrates how social media has contributed to such products as Burger King’s bacon sundae and what these freakish amalgamations say about Americans. And who would have ever imagined that fake food shortages (such as the rumor of insufficient avocados for Super Bowl parties), promoted by clickbait headlines, would become merely another path for generating revenue? The well-organized narrative combines insights from behavioral economics, food science, psychology, and Egan’s personal observations. Her book is well written, her tone is upbeat, and she offers sound solutions to the tangled problems she discusses, but this is not an appetizing picture of America.

  • Seattle Times "An engaging anthropological guide to our country's obsession with Pumpkin Spice Lattes and affection for Two Buck Chuck. ... Reads more like a bonbon-studded TED talk than an eat-your-spinach slog."
  • Sam Kass, Senior Food Analyst for NBC News and former White House Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition "Devoured is a well-researched and fascinating exploration of what we eat, how we eat and why. It is only with this understanding of our food culture that we stand a chance of improving our food system. Devoured is a great contribution to this endeavor."
  • San Jose Mercury News "Reading [Devoured] could change the way you eat."
  • Michael Moss, author of the New York Times bestseller Salt Sugar Fat "A wild and witty romp through the zaniness that infuses today's American culture of food."
  • New York Times bestselling author A.J. Jacobs "This book is for anyone who eats food (even if it's Soylent). It's a fun and thought-provoking tour of the bizarre stuff we now consume. You won't look at your dinner — or lunch, breakfast, snack, or whatever Doritos Locos Taco is — the same way again."
  • Publishers Weekly "Engrossing. ... Well-written. ... Combines insights from behavioral economics, food science, psychology, and Egan's personal observations."
  • Kirkus Reviews "Entertaining... Humorous... An informative look at what Americans eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all those snack times in between and how our eating habits are changing who we are."
  • Shelf Awareness "Well-researched, fascinating and witty."
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Devoured
Devoured
From Chicken Wings to Kale Smoothies--How What We Eat Defines Who We Are
Sophie Egan
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