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Fresh: A Perishable History (Belknap Press) 1St Edition Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674032910
ISBN-10: 0674032918
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Product Details

  • Series: Belknap Press
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 1St Edition edition (April 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674032918
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674032910
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,431,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For most of her life, my grandmother kept her milk, eggs, and butter in the spring house on her Missouri farm. Through the 1940s, my mother subscribed to a twice-weekly delivery of ice for her icebox, and in 1951, bought a Crosley "Shelvadore." I have a refrigerator-freezer that makes ice and dispenses cold water, and another freezer for garden vegetables and fruits. Times have changed.

In FRESH: A PERISHABLE HISTORY, Susanne Freidberg opens the refrigerator door on a fascinating aspect of our modern American food culture: how the search for "fresh" food has shaped what we buy, cook, and eat. We take the refrigerator so much for granted that it's almost impossible to imagine what eating was like before--and what it is like now for those who can't afford to participate.

But we didn't always have ice on demand and mechanical refrigeration has been around for only a century. In her first chapter, Freidberg's first chapter establishes the technical context for her discussion of the extraordinary changes that have taken place in our diets and eating habits in the last hundred years. The "cold revolution" changed the geography of fresh food, she says, making it possible for perishable foodstuffs to travel around the globe and for seasonally-available fruits, vegetables, and meat to appear on our tables year-round. Refrigeration gives us the ability to consume very old food and still happily imagine it as "fresh."

Take meat, for instance. As hunters, humans have always eaten wild meat, but Freidberg points out that eating domesticated animals has been, until recently, a "seasonal and regional luxury." Most people ate plant-based diets with the occasional addition of locally grown and processed meat.
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Format: Hardcover
Many books can be found on the current state of our food, our attitudes toward food, our local food movement, the problems with our cheap, industrial food systems. This book is unique for its historical vantage point. And it tells a fascinating story. Two aspects of this book make it the amazing read that it is: the incredible density of information and Freidberg's clear, graceful prose. While the book is built on an impressive foundation of research, it is the prose style that keeps this information engaging from page to page. Freidberg's knack for narrative also gives the book an economy that is impressive for the amount of interconnected subjects she deals with. Each chapter (on refrigeration, beef, eggs, fruit, vegetables, milk, and fish) tells the history of a food industry we now consider central to civilization, and answers with wide-ranging knowledge and conscience the question: how did we get here (to the world in which beef seems as plentiful as water and "baby" carrots look most natural in their see-through bags, and to the world in which our industrialized food systems are proving to be unsustainable)? Freidberg considers with equal care the roles of refrigeration and of labor inequality; the roles of marketing and of women in the workforce; the roles of technological innovation and of food fads, in her telling of this history of freshness and its consequences. As I try to list all of the subjects this concise history covers, I'm amazed by the complexity of the story it tells with so much seeming ease. If you're interested in food, and in history, you'll find this a page-turner.

As a food-focused writer and participant in our current local food movement myself, I find the historical perspective of this book especially valuable.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is in many ways a serious analysis of the history of dealing with a sample of perishable foods. It's seriousness is reflected in 59 pages of notes and a 38-page bibliography, both remarkable for a book whose primary text is 283 pages (at least in the hardback version). But it is written in an easy-to-read, one could even say "fresh" style, making it a pleasure to read. The narrative is filled with great stories, interesting personalities, and clear accounts of the technical aspects of preservation. As has been noted in other reviews, it is primarily a story of the impact of refrigeration on our access to foods at risk of spoiling. The six examples used to tell the story -- beef, eggs, fruit, vegetables, milk, and fish -- are common to the diets of many of us, giving the story a lot of direct relevance. The tension between local and global is another major theme, and reminds us of how difficult it is to be a locavore. All-in-all, a splendid volume.
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Format: Paperback
This is an odd book, not the usual academic product of Belknap, a publisher noted for excellent academic style books. This book is accessible and gracefully written, despite an impressive array of scholarly "apparatus" (which means notes and bibliography). This is a history of refrigeration, but also a history of accepting the idea that refrigerated food could be fresh. Fresh once meant, for meat for example, freshly slaughtered, but refrigerated meat could still be fresh after a long period in refrigeration. It took a surprisingly long time for that idea to be accepted.

The book's focus is mostly the US and Europe. It discusses a wide array of related topics, such as labor, political interference, while focusing on several food categories. The most interesting chapter is the last, on milk. Refrigeration meant that dairy cattle didn't have to be located very near market cities, and changed the geography of production and marketing.
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