White Bread by Aaron Bobrow-Strain
A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf

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White Bread is extremely thought-provoking. 
-The Fresh loaf


What can the history of America's one-hundred-year love-hate relationship with sliced white bread tell us about contemporary efforts to change the way we eat? Fluffy industrial loaves are about as far from slow, local, and organic as you can get, but the story of social reformers, food experts, and diet gurus who believed that getting people to eat certain food could restore the nation's decaying physical, moral, and social fabric will sound very familiar. White Bread teaches us that when Americans debate what one should eat, they are also wrestling with larger questions of race, class, immigration, and gender. As Bobrow-Strain traces the story of bread, from the first factory loaf to the latest gourmet pain au levain, he shows how efforts to champion "good food" reflect dreams of a better society--even as they reinforce stark social hierarchies.

In the early twentieth century, the factory-baked loaf heralded a new future, a world away from the hot, dusty, "dirty" bakeries run by immigrants. This bread, the original "superfood," was fortified with vitamins and marketed as patriotic. However, sixties counterculture made white bread an icon of all that was wrong with America. Today, the alternative food movement favors foods deemed ethical and environmentally correct to eat. In a time when open disdain for "unhealthy" eaters and discrimination on the basis of eating habits grow increasingly acceptable, White Bread is a timely and important examination of what we talk about when we talk about food.

About Aaron Bobrow-Strain

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Aaron Bobrow-Strain is associate professor of politics at Whitman College in Washington. He writes and teaches on the politics of the global food system. He is the author of Intimate Enemies: Landowners, Power, and Violence in Chiapas.
Published March 6, 2012 by Beacon Press. 273 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Cooking, Science & Math. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for White Bread
All: 8 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 3

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Tamar Adler on Jun 29 2012

In “White Bread” all beliefs about bread stem from a dream. The word is used so frequently it loses meaning.

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Lesson Un Plan

Reviewed by Anastasia Zamkinos on Mar 21 2012

For a carboloader like me or a carbophobe, a foodie or a sociologist, an industrialist or a communist or a feminist or a capitalist or any intersection thereof, or really anyone living in these bread-obsessed times, this is a worthwhile and smooth read.

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Food Politics

Reviewed by Marion Nestle on Mar 22 2012

 This is entertaining history and an example of food studies in action: using food to talk about important issues in history and contemporary society.

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Riv Kat

Below average
Reviewed by Rivka T. on Mar 12 2012

 but I could have used more science, since a big part of the story was taming yeast and making unpredictable bubbles etc. tractable and entirely uniform, which here appears as undifferentiated “technological advances” allowing a highly processed, sliceable and tasteless loaf.

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Smithsonian Mag

Reviewed by Jesse Rhodes on Mar 07 2012

In American culture, bread is a status symbol, and the book provides a fascinating look at how store-bought white bread rose and fell in prominence. 

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Fantastic Food

Reviewed by Anne P. on Mar 05 2012

It’s a fascinating look at the social history of our nation through bread.

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The Fresh loaf

Reviewed by Floyd M. on Feb 25 2012

White Bread is extremely thought-provoking. 

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Flad Head Mama

Below average
Reviewed by Rebecca on Feb 02 2012

After wading through it this past week, I have to say that this book comes across as a well-documented term paper, but as a literary work that ultimately fails to satisfy, engage or provide meaningful solutions to the problems it lays out.

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