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The Secret Financial Life of Food: From Commodities Markets to Supermarkets (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) Hardcover – December 4, 2012


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Product Details

  • Series: Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (December 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231156707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231156707
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #434,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Newman explains the history of where, how, and why our food is traded and the link between the farm and the dinner table. Rather than a how-to on trading commodity futures, this book explores culinary history and the role of the commodities market in shaping that history. Newman quotes authority Chad Hart, who estimates that raw commodities account for 15 to 20 cents of every dollar spent on food, with the rest going for advertising, transportation, labor, and so forth, whereas in the 1940s and ’50s commodities had a greater influence on food prices. U.S. trading of agricultural commodities in the future will have a global perspective likely to reflect global food needs and availabilities—not just those of American eaters. Americans will continue to rely on the agricultural futures market for price discovery (figuring how much to charge for an item and the price that the market will bear and keeping food prices generally steady). Interesting, thought-provoking book for food aficionados. --Mary Whaley

Review

The Secret Financial Life of Food is of benefit to anyone who is involved in the food industry, including growers, processors, consumers, and even professionals in the culinary arts. It also has appeal for those of us who buy and sell commodity futures, helping us gain a better understanding of how the markets have evolved.

(Alan Bush, senior financial futures analyst, Archer Financial Services, Inc.)

Interesting, thought-provoking book for food aficionados.

(Booklist)

Those who are interested in the history of the "food" commodity markets will find many treats in Newman's book.

(Brenda Jubin Seeking Alpha)

a refreshing and much-needed look from a different perspective: food as commodity.

(James Norton Washington Post)

More About the Author

Kara Newman is the spirits editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine and the author of two cocktail books, Spice & Ice and the forthcoming Cocktails for a Crowd (both from Chronicle Books) - as well as The Secret Financial Life of Food, newly published by Columbia University Press.

She is the former vice president of strategic research at Thomson Reuters and a former board member of the Culinary Historians of New York. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Saveur, NPR's "Kitchen Window" and many other publications.

Read her blog at http://TippleSheet.com.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By I. Darren on January 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book puts a new meaning to the phrase "Buy Breakfast!"

Looking at the series of global trade that lies at the heart of much of what we eat, the author considers the various commodities that are sold such as coffee beans and pork bellies and looks at the impact that this can have throughout the chain from producer right through to the end consumer. Commodity trading over time has helped shape our culinary habits and traditions - wars and regime changes have happened even, as residents of Boston who threw lots of British tea into the harbour can show, all due to a precious foodstuff being traded.

Commodity trading is not just limited to the current "daily" price either, as many traders deal in "futures" (future event pricing) and the author has traced such futures trading in grain back to Biblical times. The book's primary focus is on commodities trading from a United States-perspective, looking back at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT)'s foundation in 1848 and the various splits and consolidations that have occurred since that time.

A smattering of history is, of course, contextually necessary and a welcome addition but since the author has given such a great write up on a subject that is not such a "general interest" topic, hopefully there is scope for a second volume, considering perhaps the development of the world through technology and commodity trading?

Each key commodity gets its own chapter and it is interesting to compare and contrast the various developments in commodity trading and their impacts to producer, wholesaler and end-user too, both in isolation and in a general overview. Of course, in the latter decades the world has got a lot smaller thanks to air travel and containerised shipping.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TopCat19 on March 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Since I'm interested in all things financial, I figured that I would like this book. What surprised me was how much I liked it. This was interesting, informative, and fun to read, I enjoyed it from start to finish. Writing styles are certainly subjective, but I thought that the author did a wonderful job of explaining various commodities futures in a clear, easy to read manner. She has obviously aimed this book at a wide general audience, I never felt like she was lecturing, and it certainly does not have that dry, academic tone that can suck the life out of any subject. I've read tons of books relating to banking, finance, investing, stocks and bonds, etc. etc. You get the idea, but I've never been keenly interested in commodities, so this was fun to read for me since I've not read much in this field. After reading it, I'm a bit surprised that I haven't seen other books like this. I think she had a good idea and has executed on that idea very, very well. This is one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a while, fun to read and informative at the same time. I thank Ms. Kara Newman for a book well done.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jess Schira on March 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. I was excited my request had been granted. I was really looking forward to reading this book.

There are lots of things I enjoyed about the book. The author obviously did their homework and dug deep into both the history of agriculture and commodity trading. The book was crammed full of all sorts of interesting bits of information. And I loved how the book was organized. With each chapter dedicated to a single type of food commodity.

My main objection to this book was my failure to connect to the writing. The author has a very competent, but almost clinical writing voice and more than once I felt like I was reading a textbook and found my attention wandering. I also could have done with fewer quotes from other authors.

While I'm not sure that I'll ever read this book from cover to cover again, I am glad to own a copy and think it will be an excellent reference resource in the future.
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