The Serious Side of Food

With texts selected by noted restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton, this series will explore an aspect of our culture that often gets taken for granted: food. Food provides both nourishment and pleasure, of course, but under the surface of each meal lies a series of complex interactions and entanglements. Working with histories, novels, and journalism, this series exposes some of the issues that lie on our plates.

Texts include historical accounts, novels, and narrative nonfiction. Project scholar Mimi Sheraton provides an introductory essay that contextualizes the topics and themes of the series. The essay can be downloaded here.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Sinclair's classic novel of turn-of-the-century Chicago focuses on the exploitation of immigrant workers and unsanitary conditions at the city's famous stockyards and slaughterhouses.


Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health by Marion Nestle

Marion Nestle's contemporary classic exposes how corporations and food companies influence politics in order to improve their bottom lines - no matter what the cost to the health of ordinary Americans.

Diet for A Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé

Diet for a Small Planet was at the forefront of the movement in the 1970s that lead to a rethinking - both in terms of health and environmental impact - of our diets and relationship to food.

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan is concerned that the focus on nutrition and food science has replaced old-fashioned healthy eating, leading to his mantra: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

The Road to Wellville by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Boyle's comic novel satirizes the health craze of the early 20th century, poking fun at such practitioners as John Harvey Kellogg, founder of the famous cereal company. But Boyle forces us to ask: how different are we from these characters of a century ago?


Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrution Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us by Matt Fitzgerald

This critique of various "diet fads" examines the rhetoric and faults of each, ascribing "cult" status to them - for they all claim to be the "one true way" to eat healthy.


The Third Plate by Dan Barber

Chef Dan Barber takes the reader on a series of journeys to where our food is sourced - and in the process creates new insight into ways we can eat better and create more sustainable food systems.