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Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military…

Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat

by Anastacia Marx De Salcedo

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This book is a treasure trove of anecdotes about the sometimes unexpected provenance of the staples in our pantries. That the tin can was developed as a response to Napoleon's desire to replace his army's plundering with a more stable form of sustenance is well established. But the military's role, if not in the invention, then in the massive implementation of food sterilization techniques, packaging and esoteric preparation techniques did not stop there.
Most chapters of this book read well, arranged in chronological order and cleverly prefaced with short tableaus of modern family life to outline the ubiquitousness of the products discussed in the book. Unfortunately, their quality is uneven, alterning between well-researched popular science essays and rather confusing strings of anecdotes. Maybe this book is best enjoyed like a packaged Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE): devour the snacks and the more appetizing bits, but skip the soggy sides. Unless you are really hungry. ( )
  timtom | Dec 30, 2015 |
A provocative thesis, but not completely convincing. It's one thing to show a connection between military research and commercial products, and to reveal the origins of certain food techniques and technologies. It's another thing to claim that the military is acting as a shadowy puppeteer with a hidden agenda, and to assert that all of today's processed foods can be traced back to World War I and World War II. (I'm not a food historian, but I find it hard to believe that Nabisco, Kraft, and other corporations that, like the military, probably prize economy, speed and convenience, weren't already working on such products.) And while it was interesting to learn about the biology behind processes like preservation and sterilization, the story tended to get bogged down in such details. Also unnecessary was De Salcedo's patting herself on the back about her own cooking and her role in nurturing her family, which seems more fitting for a memoir. ( )
  bostonian71 | Oct 15, 2015 |
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Americans eat more processed foods than anyone else in the world. We also spend more on military research. These two seemingly unrelated facts are inextricably linked. If you ever wondered how ready-to-eat foods infiltrated your kitchen, you'll love this entertaining romp through the secret military history of practically everything you buy at the supermarket. In a nondescript Boston suburb, in a handful of low buildings buffered by trees and a lake, a group of men and women spend their days researching, testing, tasting, and producing the foods that form the bedrock of the American diet. If you stumbled into the facility, you might think the technicians dressed in lab coats and the shiny kitchen equipment belonged to one of the giant food conglomerates responsible for your favorite brand of frozen pizza or microwavable breakfast burritos. So you'd be surprised to learn that you've just entered the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, ground zero for the processed food industry.… (more)

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