I met some wonderful people in this book. Rip Ruhlman, the author's father, was a man after my own heart. I, too, love grocery stores and revel in the diversity of offerings, from wholesome plain food to the exotic fruits, grains, and snack foods calling me to come and try. We all need food to live, but for some there is just that frisson of excitement that comes with the assault on all the senses that makes the surveying, and actually choosing and buying, so important to some of us. Then, we leave the author's dad to go on and meet Tom and Jeff Heinen, brothers who own and together are the force behind the Heinen's regional chain of grocery stores bases in Cleveland, Ohio. How grocery stores came to be the behemoths they are in the USA; how huge conglomerates dominate the food supply; and how the consumer can actually make capitalists make changes make for a read that brings insights into the world of food production and sale. The conversational style kept the book flowing and kept my interest.
Another interesting microhistory, especially if like Michael Pollan's and Eric Schlosser's works.
I didn't want to enjoy this book as much as I did, primarily because I have a hard time watching the author elucidate as a judge on Iron Chef. He strikes me as a mansplainer and kind of full of himself. But he is so interesting as a guest on podcasts, and seems like a real person with knowledge he wants to share in a way that isn't so haughty. And he's written really good books. Especially the one he's best known for: The Making of a Chef, which is one of my favorites.
That said, this is his best effort yet. I'm a sucker for memoir-laden history, and this story shares the author's upbringing in Ohio paralleling the evolution of grocery stores in the US. It's a beautifully structured way to learn about how our food systems became what we have to endure and suffer through today while subtly making the case for what's not right about it from a consumer perspective, all while learning about life as the son of a guy who adored grocery stores. In Ohio. And that's awesome.
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