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Sugar Sugar

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss (Random House, $28.00, 446 pages)

salt sugar fat

First, the food companies themselves are hooked on salt, sugar and fat. Their relentless drive to achieve the greatest allure for the lowest possible cost has drawn them, inexorably, to these three ingredients time and time again. Sugar not only sweetens, it replaces more costly ingredients – like tomatoes in ketchup – to add bulk and texture. For little added expense, a variety of fats can be slipped into food formulas to stimulate overeating and improve mouthfeel. And salt, barely more expensive than water, has miraculous powers to boost the appeal of processed food.

Warning: This book may upset your current eating habits! The internet reminds us on a daily basis that Americans are overweight and at risk for developing coronary artery disease and diabetes. The boldest of these warnings are usually vehicles for some new diet or exercise program. Others are summaries of the latest scientific papers on eating habits and health outcomes.

At last, Pulitzer Prize winning writer Michael Moss has provided health-conscious readers with a comprehensive and entertaining look at the history and production of the processed food that comprises the majority of today’s grocery cart contents. Moss delivers his message – that big food manufacturers are only concerned with profits, in a calm, firm voice that conveys respect for the reader. His reporting style of presentation leads the reader through the realms of salt, sugar and fat – the components that are manipulated by manufacturers into the “foods” like the Oreos, Cheetos and chips craved by millions of people in all walks of life.

Salt-Sugar-Fat_3D-COVER_nospine

The scientific background for each of the three cravings is well documented. Moss takes on each separately, which allows the reader a thoughtful consideration of the topic rather than an overwhelming one. While there is a high correlation among the three, there is minimal repetition. Each is a compelling topic and together they are likely to have more than a slight impact on the future shopping and eating habits of readers.

Highly recommended. This is three books in one!

Ruta Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer. “Michael Moss tells the chilling story of how the food giants have seduced everyone in the country.” Alice Waters

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Shine On

The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris by Mark Kurlansky (Riverhead Trade, $16.00, 352 pages)

The Eastern Stars, subtitled How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris, by Mark Kurlansky, chronicles the evolution of baseball in this town, the island in general, and – in some cases – the surrounding Caribbean islands.

At its conclusion, the book has a listing of the first 79 players from San Pedro de Macoris that made it into the U.S./Canadian major leagues.   Many readers will likely assume this book has more baseball content and less history, and from the middle toward the end, baseball plays a more prominent role in the story.   The beginning of the book is a long history lesson, which may prove to be quite frustrating for some readers.

The most interesting parts of the book are the tales of how the local men who did succeed in playing major league baseball viewed their hometown.   The decisions they made during and after their careers relating to how they supported the needs of their families and brethren had outcomes ranging from remarkable generosity to outright dismissal.

Extreme poverty is the one common denominator affecting all.   The subjects of steroids, scouts, and how MLB organizations handled their affairs in Latin America also permeate throughout.

The book dances between trying to satisfy the history buffs and the baseball fans and, thus, falls short in both areas.   However, it does add up to a satisfying story, especially after it manages to leave the ground.   Recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Mark Kurlansky is also the author of the nonfiction books Cod and Salt. 

Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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