Consumed Why Americans Love, Hate and Fear Food


Why Americans Love, Hate and Fear Food

Michelle Stacey, Simon & Schuster, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Tokyo, Singapore, 1994

Contains “Eating Your Medicine – The Battle Over Superfoods,” a chapter refering to Stephen L. DeFelice, M.D. which can beĀ read here on-line.


Something has happened to food in America: It is no longer simply food – filling, good-tasting, lifesustaining. Rather, it is “fat-free” or “high in fiber” or “low in cholesterol” – either an enemy that will steal life away or a savior that will prolong it indefinitely. In this provocative book, Michelle Stacey chronicles the psychological and cultural forces behind this American obsession, forces that have transformed oat bran and broccoli into magical totems, and steak, butter, and eggs into killers. We have refashioned food into preventive medicine, a moral test, sometimes literally a mortal enemy – and in the process we have lost sight of one of its most basic functions: the giving of pleasure.

Stacey takes us on a revealing journey through the landscape of American food paranoia, from supermarket aisles, research laboratories, and the factories of food manufacturers to restaurant kitchens and food conventions. We peer inside the heads of advertising slogan writers, and learn from “restrained eaters” why there is no such thing as “normal eating” anymore. In each chapter of Consumed, Stacey delves into a different aspect of the American food obsession, introducing us to the people most actively and publicly involved with our food – rethinking it, selling it, cooking it, refiguring it in the lab.

We meet, among others, the inventor of the first FDA-approved fat substitute, who explains how technologically engineered foods are designed to fool us into eating well; the head of nutrition research at the Quaker Oats Company, who takes us through the rise and precipitous fall of the quintessential American health-food fad; a lobbyist for futuristic foods that are designed to prevent specific diseases; a back-to-nature food scientist/baker who is touting a little-known grain he says is the next oat bran; a chef who reveals a kitchen’s-eye view of America’s conflicted eating patterns.

The story these people tell is that of a culture trying to satisfy a near-impossible desire – that food be both righteous and naughty. Their experiences, taken together, represent a peculiarly American repast – one serving of anxiety, another of opportunism, a teaspoon of regret, and a sizable dollop of guilt. The answer to our eating problems, Stacey suggests, may lie in a new direction: a resolve to live in harmony with our food rather than to struggle against it, to balance information with pleasure, to rediscover the ancient art of letting food nourish our souls.

Perceptive, original, and elegantly argued, Consumed will change the way we think about food.

Michelle Stacey has written for The New Yorker and other national magazines. She was formerly managing editor of Mademoiselle, and an editor for the magazines Savvy and Outside. She lives in Larchmont, New York, with her husband, daughter, and son.



A Pinch of Anxiety, A Dash Of Sin
Fin de Siecle Eating in America

Chapter One
Seeds Of Self-Denial
The Transformation of Food in the 1890s

Chapter Two
Foods From The Lab
Building the Illusion of Fat

Chapter Three
Inside The Hype Machine
The Life and Death of Oat Bran

Chapter Four
Eating Your Medicine
The Battle Over Superfoods
This chapter is about Dr. Stephen L. DeFelice, M.D. and the nutraceutical revolution.
Click on the chapter title to read this chapter

Chapter Five
Designer Foods
Making Breads with a Blueprint

Chapter Six
Fear Of Fats
The American Diet on Trial

Chapter Seven
Food Control
An Epidemic of Disordered Eating

Chapter Eight
Public Eating
Serving the Food Phobes

A New (Aand Old) Way of Eating
Rediscovering Pleasure