Anastacia Marx de Salcedo

Combat-Ready Kitchen : How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat

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<p><b>Americans eat more processed foods than anyone else in the world. We also spend more on military research. These two seemingly unrelated facts are inextricably linked. If you ever wondered how ready-to-eat foods infiltrated your kitchen, you'll love this entertaining romp through the secret military history of practically everything you buy at the supermarket.</b> </p> <p></p>In a nondescript Boston suburb, in a handful of low buildings buffered by trees and a lake, a group of men and women spend their days researching, testing, tasting, and producing the foods that form the bedrock of the American diet. If you stumbled into the facility, you might think the technicians dressed in lab coats and the shiny kitchen equipment belonged to one of the giant food conglomerates responsible for your favorite brand of frozen pizza or microwavable breakfast burritos. So you'd be surprised to learn that you've just entered the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, ground zero for the processed food industry. <p></p>Ever since Napoleon, armies have sought better ways to preserve, store, and transport food for battle. As part of this quest, although most people don't realize it, the U.S. military spearheaded the invention of energy bars, restructured meat, extended-life bread, instant coffee, and much more. But there's been an insidious mission creep: because the military enlisted industry--huge corporations such as ADM, ConAgra, General Mills, Hershey, Hormel, Mars, Nabisco, Reynolds, Smithfield, Swift, Tyson, and Unilever--to help develop and manufacture food for soldiers on the front line, over the years combat rations, or the key technologies used in engineering them, have ended up dominating grocery store shelves and refrigerator cases. TV dinners, the cheese powder in snack foods, cling wrap . . . The list is almost endless. <p></p>Now food writer Anastacia Marx de Salcedo scrutinizes the world of processed food and its long relationship with the military--unveiling the twists, turns, successes, failures, and products that have found their way from the armed forces' and contractors' laboratories into our kitchens. In developing these rations, the army was looking for some of the very same qualities as we do in our hectic, fast-paced twenty-first-century lives: portability, ease of preparation, extended shelf life at room temperature, affordability, and appeal to even the least adventurous eaters. In other words, the military has us chowing down like special ops. <p></p>What is the effect of such a diet, eaten--as it is by soldiers and most consumers--day in and day out, year after year? We don't really know. We're the guinea pigs in a giant public health experiment, one in which science and technology, at the beck and call of the military, have taken over our kitchens. <p></p>

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Americans eat more processed foods than anyone else in the world. We also spend more on military research. These two seemingly unrelated facts are inextricably linked. If you ever wondered how ready-to-eat foods infiltrated your kitchen, you'll love this entertaining romp through the secret military history of practically everything you buy at the supermarket.

In a nondescript Boston suburb, in a handful of low buildings buffered by trees and a lake, a group of men and women spend their days researching, testing, tasting, and producing the foods that form the bedrock of the American diet. If you stumbled into the facility, you might think the technicians dressed in lab coats and the shiny kitchen equipment belonged to one of the giant food conglomerates responsible for your favorite brand of frozen pizza or microwavable breakfast burritos. So you'd be surprised to learn that you've just entered the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, ground zero for the processed food industry.

Ever since Napoleon, armies have sought better ways to preserve, store, and transport food for battle. As part of this quest, although most people don't realize it, the U.S. military spearheaded the invention of energy bars, restructured meat, extended-life bread, instant coffee, and much more. But there's been an insidious mission creep: because the military enlisted industry--huge corporations such as ADM, ConAgra, General Mills, Hershey, Hormel, Mars, Nabisco, Reynolds, Smithfield, Swift, Tyson, and Unilever--to help develop and manufacture food for soldiers on the front line, over the years combat rations, or the key technologies used in engineering them, have ended up dominating grocery store shelves and refrigerator cases. TV dinners, the cheese powder in snack foods, cling wrap . . . The list is almost endless.

Now food writer Anastacia Marx de Salcedo scrutinizes the world of processed food and its long relationship with the military--unveiling the twists, turns, successes, failures, and products that have found their way from the armed forces' and contractors' laboratories into our kitchens. In developing these rations, the army was looking for some of the very same qualities as we do in our hectic, fast-paced twenty-first-century lives: portability, ease of preparation, extended shelf life at room temperature, affordability, and appeal to even the least adventurous eaters. In other words, the military has us chowing down like special ops.

What is the effect of such a diet, eaten--as it is by soldiers and most consumers--day in and day out, year after year? We don't really know. We're the guinea pigs in a giant public health experiment, one in which science and technology, at the beck and call of the military, have taken over our kitchens.

Americans eat more processed foods than anyone else in the world. We also spend more on military research. These two seemingly unrelated facts are inextricably linked. If you ever wondered how ready-to-eat foods infiltrated your kitchen, you’ll love this entertaining romp through the secret military history of practically everything you buy at the supermarket.

In a nondescript Boston suburb, in a handful of low buildings buffered by trees and a lake, a group of men and women spend their days researching, testing, tasting, and producing the foods that form the bedrock of the American diet. If you stumbled into the facility, you might think the technicians dressed in lab coats and the shiny kitchen equipment belonged to one of the giant food conglomerates responsible for your favorite brand of frozen pizza or microwavable breakfast burritos. So you’d be surprised to learn that you’ve just entered the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, ground zero for the processed food industry.

Ever since Napoleon, armies have sought better ways to preserve, store, and transport food for battle. As part of this quest, although most people don’t realize it, the U.S. military spearheaded the invention of energy bars, restructured meat, extended-life bread, instant coffee, and much more. But there’s been an insidious mission creep: because the military enlisted industry—huge corporations such as ADM, ConAgra, General Mills, Hershey, Hormel, Mars, Nabisco, Reynolds, Smithfield, Swift, Tyson, and Unilever—to help develop and manufacture food for soldiers on the front line, over the years combat rations, or the key technologies used in engineering them, have ended up dominating grocery store shelves and refrigerator cases. TV dinners, the cheese powder in snack foods, cling wrap . . . The list is almost endless.

Now food writer Anastacia Marx de Salcedo scrutinizes the world of processed food and its long relationship with the military—unveiling the twists, turns, successes, failures, and products that have found their way from the armed forces’ and contractors’ laboratories into our kitchens. In developing these rations, the army was looking for some of the very same qualities as we do in our hectic, fast-paced twenty-first-century lives: portability, ease of preparation, extended shelf life at room temperature, affordability, and appeal to even the least adventurous eaters. In other words, the military has us chowing down like special ops.

What is the effect of such a diet, eaten—as it is by soldiers and most consumers—day in and day out, year after year? We don’t really know. We’re the guinea pigs in a giant public health experiment, one in which science and technology, at the beck and call of the military, have taken over our kitchens.

Specifications

Publisher
Penguin Publishing Group
Book Format
Hardcover
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
304
Author
Anastacia Marx de Salcedo
ISBN-13
9781591845973
Publication Date
August, 2015
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
9.25 x 6.34 x 1.04 Inches
ISBN-10
1591845971

Customer Reviews

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Average Rating:(3.0)out of 5 stars

A provocative thesis, ...

A provocative thesis, but not completely convincing. It's one thing to show a connection between military research and commercial products, and to reveal the origins of certain food techniques and technologies. It's another thing to claim that the military is acting as a shadowy puppeteer with a hidden agenda, and to assert that all of today's processed foods can be traced back to World War I and World War II. (I'm not a food historian, but I find it hard to believe that Nabisco, Kraft, and other corporations that, like the military, probably prize economy, speed and convenience, weren't already working on such products.) And while it was interesting to learn about the biology behind processes like preservation and sterilization, the story tended to get bogged down in such details. Also unnecessary was De Salcedo's patting herself on the back about her own cooking and her role in nurturing her family, which seems more fitting for a memoir.

Average Rating:(3.0)out of 5 stars

This book is a treasur...

This book is a treasure trove of anecdotes about the sometimes unexpected provenance of the staples in our pantries. That the tin can was developed as a response to Napoleon's desire to replace his army's plundering with a more stable form of sustenance is well established. But the military's role, if not in the invention, then in the massive implementation of food sterilization techniques, packaging and esoteric preparation techniques did not stop there. Most chapters of this book read well, arranged in chronological order and cleverly prefaced with short tableaus of modern family life to outline the ubiquitousness of the products discussed in the book. Unfortunately, their quality is uneven, alterning between well-researched popular science essays and rather confusing strings of anecdotes. Maybe this book is best enjoyed like a packaged Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE): devour the snacks and the more appetizing bits, but skip the soggy sides. Unless you are really hungry.


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