When browsing some of Bertrand’s new arrivals, unsurprisingly, the book entitled “White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf” by Aaron Bobobrow-Strain, immediately caught my eye. This was partly due to the book’s bold cover, which included a loaf of white bread as well as Wonder bread’s signature colorful circles surrounding the title. Additionally, I have always been fascinated with the social meaning behind food. The first class I picked out at Bucknell was my foundation seminar entitled “Famine, Frappucinos, and Fellowship: The Sociology of Food.” I remember reading some text in that class, which said studies have been conducted that indicate a household’s income is inversely proportional to the number of white grain products they have (in other words, the more loaves of white bread a household has, the lower their income is likely to be).
Once I picked up the book and read the book jacket as well as the table of contents, I was so interested to learn a bit about the history of white bread and how it has drastically changed over time. It was around the turn of the century when factory-baked white bread was considered a sign of hope, because it was a welcomed respite from the ubiquitous dirty bakeries run by immigrants. It was a sign of status, and even patriotism, to buy the classic Wonder white bread. In more recent decades, the emergence of alternative food movements, such as slow food and organic food, has virtually dubbed the formerly traditional Wonder white bread the Satan of edible things everywhere.
Bobobrow-Strain, the author of this book, seems to do an excellent job of raising readers’ awareness of the complexity of our food system and the many hidden meanings embedded in our choices regarding food, which are often overlooked. He is a professor at Whitman College in Washington and teaches about the politics of the global food system. This is such an interesting topic given that food is one of humans’ most basic and necessary resources. There is such an extraordinarily complex web of political, economic, and social factors, which mold the system that we depend on to provide us with food every day.