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The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong Hardcover – January 2, 2007

3.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his latest debunking project (after The Culture of Fear), sociologist Glassner argues that "everything you think you know about food is wrong." And Glassner really does take on almost everything, from Atkins to vegans, with particularly hard jabs at those who, in the name of nutrition, take the fun out of food. This includes some well-known food writers, the manufacturers of "fat-free" foods, as well as "natural" and "organic" offerings—but surprisingly, he stands up for irradiated "Frankenfoods" and for some processed fast food. Later, he tackles the American obesity "epidemic." Here, too, he finds conventional wisdom more mythic than real, with so much conflicting evidence (the book is formidably researched and footnoted) that he finds himself wondering if obesity really matters and concludes that it probably doesn't, much. Only two conventional bits of wisdom survive Glassner's skeptical approach: the rich really are thinner than the poor, and four-star restaurant cooking really is delicious. Glassner's myth-busting information is useful, but at times he takes jabs in too many directions, losing narrative focus. (Jan. 2)
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Review

“Glassner exposes the strained interpretations, ‘prejudices dressed up as science,’ and pure fabrications behind much received wisdom.” (New York Times)

“Pure fun to read . . . Glassner is methodical and relentless in his exploration.” (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

“A master at the art of dissecting research.” (New York Times Book Review)

“It’s hard not to root for Glassner as he tilts against modern food dogma.” (Wall Street Journal)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (January 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060501219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060501211
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,123,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Mr. Joe TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Call it the perfectibility trap, this impulse to idealize some foods while devaluing others that are plenty good for their intended purposes but don't further a pet view of proper eating." - Barry Glassner

Perhaps you know someone whom THE GOSPEL OF FOOD author Barry Glassner would call a "devotee of the doctrine of naught", i.e. one who eats food based on what it doesn't contain - too much in the way of calories, fat, sodium, cholesterol, sugar, animal products, preservatives, genetic modifications, or whatever - rather than what it does. And once an acceptable foodstuff is decided upon, it's portioned and weighed and toted up for the day's ration. To such a person, mention of any yearning for a cheeseburger incurs a look of scornful contempt that would wither the most blithe of souls. Such a person is an unofficial member of the Food Police. ("Badges!? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!!")

Perhaps you're one of them.

A professor of sociology at USC, Glassner hopes to persuade the reader to accept a more balanced perspective of the food they eat that can perhaps be summarized as, "Eat what you want in moderation; eat food for what it is rather than what it's not; enjoy one of life's great pleasures because you've only one life to live."

Glassner is, of course, at odds with the hand-wringing government nannies and assorted self-proclaimed nutritional do-gooders that say you're too fat because you eat the wrong foods - especially fast foods - and are doomed to a premature death.
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Format: Hardcover
I've closely followed all of the food books of the past year (Pollan, Buford, Kamp, etc.), and "The Gospel of Food" stands apart for several reasons. Glassner is a sociologist and - if not as "literary" a writer as Pollan et al - his book is clearer, more astringent and freer of romantic authorial stances. "Gospel" provides an excellent opportunity to assess the food wisdom of the past years while adding immeasurably to the public's knowledge. Loving the counter-intuitive argument, Glassner (also author of bestseller "The Culture of Fear"), makes us reconsider our superstitions and most entrenched and most beloved ideas about food and culture. Fast food: not as universally evil as Morgan Spurlock and others would have you believe. Restaurant culture in American: about as democratic as Versailles under Antoinette. Health professionals: Mostly P.T. Barnums, armed with unbelievably spurious data. Make no mistake, this is an important book for anyone who cares about how we live now.
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Format: Paperback
The title sums up the premise of Glassner's book fairly accurately. He makes several valid points throughout the book, but they ultimately get lost, due to a lack of organization, signposting, and an overarching tendency simply to pick holes in the arguments of others without really stating his own position very clearly.

The book lacks structural coherence - the chapters resemble scattered essays without a unifying concept. The opening and closing chapters are generally concerned with establishing that much of the received wisdom about food is highly questionable (e.g., recommended daily allowances, nutritional guidelines, epidemiological claims that a given food is harmful, the demonization of McDonald's and fast food generally, overblown claims linking obesity to mortality). But two chapters in the middle of the book - "Restaurant Heaven" and "The Food Adventurers" - seem completely out of place, being little more than a catalog of memorable meals the author has been privileged to enjoy in various fancy restaurants. One doesn't begrudge Glassner his dream dinners prepared by Daniel Boulud or Thomas Keller, but the rapturous descriptions included here are a pointless self-indulgence, which seem to have little to do with the rest of the book. And I think most of us don't need to have it pointed out that restaurant critics are likely to get better meals and service than your average nondescript diner.

In the end, the book is disappointing, in that the valid points that Glassner has to make get lost in a welter of irrelevant detail and poor organization. Nonetheless, his overall message, that it is perverse to obsess about food to the extent that we no longer enjoy it, is an important one.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Maybe what they say about marriage goes for books too: Review in haste, repent at leisure.

If I had reviewed Barry Glassner’s new book, subtitled “Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong,” immediately after reading it, my comments would have been highly enthusiastic. This latest salvo from the author of “The Culture of Fear,” I would have said, is fun, and it’s also dynamite.

With the benefit of second thoughts, and some pithy insights from my consultant physician (my wife, that is), and after watching Morgan Spurlock’s devastating movie “Super Size Me,” I still think that it’s fun, and that parts of it are dynamite–but not all of Glassner’s shots land on their targets quite as planned.

With the intention proclaimed in the blurb–“a rallying cry to abandon food fads and myths for calmer and more pleasurable eating”–I wouldn’t dream of taking issue. Quoting the historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s comment that “one of the few verifiable laws about dietetics is that the experts always disagree,” Glassner wants us to ask questions to which we thought we knew the answers. His assertion that “well-founded arguments can be made that just about anything edible ought to be shunned–or, alternatively, consumed in large quantities to prevent disease” is right on the money.

The “gospel” under attack here is what Glassner calls the “gospel of naught–the view that the worth of a meal lies principally in what it lacks.” He cites at one point “a faulty logic that assumes if a steady diet of something is harmful, going without it must be healthful.” Faced with this kind of gospel, as with any other kind, my own reaction, and the one he clearly favors, is simple agnosticism.
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