Snacks: A Canadian Food History – Janis Thiessen

I received a review copy of this book through University of Manitoba Press.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. The official launch for Snacks will be held tomorrow, October 10th, at McNally Robinson Booksellers.  The book launch begins at 7:00 pm and will be held in the atrium of the Grant Park Store.

Snacks. A part of what makes life worth living. Snacks of course mean different things to different people. For some people snacks mean vegetables dipped in hummus or some other healthy type of dip. If you are such a person you might as well stop reading now.

Snacks: is all about those sweet, salty, deep-fried, flour caked items that bring us pleasure as we sit and binge watch Netflix. The comfort food we turn to when we gather with our families, or grab and sneak off and avoid our families(Hey! It happens). For some people snacks are integral part of their eating day, while for others they are more markers of special events

Snacks for the read

Reading material with snacks to go alongside it.

Snacks: A Canadian Good History  is the the third book by Janis Thiessen, a history professor at the University of Winnipeg, with a specific focus on labour and oral history. Thiessen shares here own memories of snacks, and how the way in which they were part of her life growing up. Snacks is a love letter to many favourite Canadian Snack foods. At the same time it recognizes that like all relationships the story of snacks in Canada is complicated with many low points as well as high points. and things are rarely exactly as they seem to be. Continue reading


Berry: Bringing it to the Table

If you write about food long enough the name Wendell Berry will eventually come up. Berry, a Kentuckian, is a farmer, poet, novelist, and food activist. Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Foodbrings together some of his thoughts on those subject spanning the last four decades.

Berry cover

Cover shot, Bringing it to the Table

Bringing it to the Table is a collection of Berry’s essays, focused on farming and farmers, along with a selection of his fiction dealing with the subject of food and eating together. The first two sections, on farming and farmers make up the bulk of the book.  Continue reading

Michael Pollan – In Defense of Food

Michael Pollan is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the world of food today. His latest book Cooked(which I have yet to look at), hit the bestseller lists earlier this year, and still can be found in copious quantity at your local book chain.

Earlier this year, despite my natural aversion to bestsellers, I pick up a copy of Pollan’s In Defense of Food:  An Eater’s Manifesto.  On the surface of it, I like Pollan’s book, because among other things, it carries with it an attack on nutritionism.  As I wrote in my post on Robert Farrar Capon’s The Supper of the LambI have a preference for writers who focus on food as food before food as a series of nutrients.

MIchael Pollan's In Defense of Food

Essentially, In Defense of Food encourages it’s readers to think long and hard about the way in which the food they consume is produced.  On the whole Pollan does a good job with this task.  However, at times the strokes that he paints are so broad, that they don’t give adequate information to help the reader make informed choices.

While many people would suggest that this weakness shows itself greatest when Pollan is challenging the science surrounding nutrition, I find it more to be the case later in the book when he is offering ways in which we can change the way in which we eat.  Take for example, his comments on trying not to eat alone.  This is limited to one rather brief paragraph that refers to some research.  Not only is there vague research information, but the section could have been improved with an example or two of how people eating together affected their overall eating behaviour.

In Summary:

Overall I would describe this as a four star book for people who are beginning to inquire into their food and eating habits.  If you are someone who has already spent some time thinking on these issues, I would knock the rating down to three.  Still, on the whole its worthwhile having Pollan’s book on your bookshelf.