After reading Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food nation1 last year and being wholly impressed, I was interested in delving deeper into the issue of America’s obesity crisis and the Big Food hegemony. I knew that Food Fight would focus more on the health aspects of the issue, so I thought it would be a good place to start.
I can’t sit here and say that Food Fight was a bad book. It was thoroughly fleshed out, extensively cited, logically organized, and impeccably researched. It also struck me like a particularly stiff high school research paper. Brownell has all the stylistic flair of the bookworm that you made fun of in school. When he cracks an obvious joke, he follows up with a disclaimer stating as much. The book is divided into short sections with large subject headers, and struggles at times for cohesiveness and flow. It’s got a lot of cited statistics, but I didn’t get the sense that these were woven well enough, rhetorically, to make as much of an impression as they could. After solid blocks of contextless statistics, I felt my eyes crossing and wanted to skip to the next chapter.
Which isn’t to say that the book doesn’t have motivational power. I felt righteous indignation when Brownell talked about soda companies signing distribution deals with cash-strapped schools. I felt the urge to eat produce and cut out soda from my diet when he outlined the growing epidemic of poor diet and the physical and mental effects of overnutrition.
In effect, this is precisely the sort of book you’d use in writing a research paper of your own, but reading it cover to cover isn’t the most fulfilling enterprise. If you’re interested in learning about the Fast Food problem in an eminently more pleasing way, read Schlosser’s book instead.
- Actually, Brownell refers to Schlosser’s book extensively[↩]