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Pandora's Lunchbox by Melanie Warner


"We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons."

--Alfred E. Newman

From blueberry muffins without blueberries to ice cream without cream, parent and former New York Times reporter Melanie Warner traces how the food we eat has changed since Upton Sinclair's 1906 stomach-turning novel about the Chicago Stockyard, The Jungle, in her engrossing and occasionally gross Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal.

The food processing breakthroughs of the past century has shortened food prep time for today's time-starved lifestyles, but vastly outstripped our bodies' ability to adapt to processed foods. She not only explains the chemical and mechanical process of how corn, soybean oil and many other ingredients have been refined to become part of many of the foods we eat, but shines a light on Harvey W. Wiley, a forgotten chemist, who was the driving force behind the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act, which empowered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to crack down on food companies putting rotting apples in strawberry and raspberry jams, bulking up bread with sawdust and preserving tomatoes with salicylic acid. He later helped develop the Good Housekeeping Seal.

Our grocery stores have fresh meat and produce that is more affordable than processed food by the ounce. Warner believes this can lead to better balance between real and processed foods in our meals. She points to Darcy Struckmeier's family. The family decided to stop eating processed foods as a 10-day experiment. Cameron's listlessness and stomach complaints ended ("I feel like I've been lifted from a fog"), Emma's constipation disappeared and Shawn has a lot less heartburn. Their experiment is now their daily diet.

Van Lingle Mungo @ Central


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