Food Insecurity in America

Food Insecurity in Americais the first critical review of food insecurity in America and the various policy provisions that have been enacted to deal with the problem.  The book is “critical” in the sense that it challenges well-established assumptions and conventional wisdom.  It also spends as much time analyzing the various policy provisions that allegedly deal with the food insecurity problem (food pantries, SNAP, school lunch programs, Meals on Wheels) as on describing the extent and location of the problem.

The book dismantles with evidence the basic paradigm of food insecurity theory.  The existing literature on food insecurity is strewn across numerous disciplines: sociology, policy science, social work, economics, anthropology, nutrition, nursing, public health, agriculture and more.  Ours is (we believe) the first effort to pull all these disciplinary literatures together into a single statement on the nature of the problem and various proposed solutions.  “Food insecurity” and related issues are now on the national political agenda, but much of the literature (for example, that dealing with “food deserts” or the benefits of SNAP participation) is little more than wishful thinking.  Our book clears away a lot of the underbrush in the literature so the principal features of the policy landscape stand out more clearly.

The problem of food insecurity is a serious one but has been inadequately described in prior research, thus poorly understood, and most of the policies that have been enacted to deal with the problem fail for various reasons that are explored in detail.

Book Status: Complete; revised several times, but in need of a final pass to update literature and address some organizational and stylistic problems. 415 single-spaced pages (112,000 words).  To review the manuscript or converse with me, get in touch.

More Than I Have Seen: A Memoir of Food, Travel, and Culture

If you grow up, as I did, in a place like Logansport, Indiana, you figure out pretty quickly that all the truly interesting parts of the world are somewhere else. The main point of travel is to expose oneself to other cultures, and in many cases, it is the local foods that carry a people’s cultural identity.  Belgium would just not be Belgium if the Belgians didn’t argue with the French over who makes the best pommes frites!  (Advantage: Belgium.)  Who can say that they have really been to Bologna if they have never washed down a plate of Pasta Bolognese with a water glass of cheap red wine in the shadow of the Piazza Maggiore?  Or to Malaysia if they have never choked back a tear from a dish of chili pan mee?  Or to Turkey if their palates are ignorant of börek or kuzu tandir?  Or for that matter to Mexico if the only enchilada you’ve ever eaten came from the local Taco Bell?  With travel comes culinary adventure, whether it is a “proper English breakfast” in Durham, England, a grilled baby octopus in Barcelona, a jug of the local red wine in Cinque Terre, a fiery-hot curry in Penang, or a sweet cup of thick black Turkish coffee in Istanbul.

More than I Have Seen is a collection of observations, reflections, and polemics concerning food and travel that I have written in spurts over the past thirty years.  There is no overarching theme and certainly no pretension to scholarly merit, although I have been unable to resist commenting on points sociological and cultural from time to time.  These essays have been gathered up and published as this book because people have told me that my writings about food and travel are informative and enjoyable; the book is the test whether that is true. What I can say unambiguously is that if they prove half as fun to read as they were to write, I shall have succeeded in my modest aspirations for this volume.

The title is taken from an observation of Benjamin Disraeli: “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen…”

“…some really good writing here…The Guatemala material (your ‘neo-Marxian rage’ and the maids’ stories are excellent) and the road-kill discussion (I had no clue PETA had a position) were very compelling…the ‘world through food & travel” approach should get some traction’ — Sian Hunter, University Press of Florida

Book Status: Complete to first draft stage and wholly revised twice.  Pp. 247 (double-spaced). 81,842 words.  To review the manuscript or converse with me about it, be in touch.

The Key to (Almost) Everything: Sociology for All of Us

I gave my first lecture to college students on September 4, 1973, and my last on April 20, 2017, a teaching career that spanned 15,934 days, or if you prefer, 43 years, 7 months and 16 days.  During those years, I taught at least half the courses in the typical undergraduate sociology curriculum and a pretty fair chunk of the graduate curriculum as well.

Each of the book’s chapters is modeled on a course I have taught (usually more than once).  These chapters are not course or lecture notes although I have consulted my course notes for specifics and details.  The chapters, rather, summarize what I think students ought to have learned and what ordinary people would profit from knowing about the discipline of sociology.

Each chapter distills from its corresponding subject matter what I consider to be the most important lessons, the eight or ten or fifteen most important things about the course topic that people in general would profit from knowing.   None of the book is written in the dumbed-down, vapid, anemic prose so characteristic of undergraduate sociology textbooks, but rather in a prose style that I hope appeals to well-educated adults who never got around to studying sociology and are curious about what the discipline has learned and how.  Thus, I fancy this book as “an introduction to sociology for grown-ups.”

Although it is not commonly appreciated, much of the substance of modern-day sociological thinking and analysis has entered into and enriched the national political discourse. Middle class, lower class, working class, race, poverty, ethnicity, homelessness, gender, immigration, discrimination, inequality, values, and much, much more – these are fundamentally sociological concepts about which we have learned a great deal over the course of the last half century.  It is largely the substance of this learning that I attempt to convey in the book.

Current Status: Forthcoming in 2019 from Rowman and Littlefield. To converse with me about the book, get in touch.

If You Don’t Have Thirty Years: Case Studies in Applied Sociology

In the near-half-century of my career, I have had the opportunity to research, reflect upon and write about a very wide range of social issues and problems, many of which matter to the general population and about which political controversy often rages.  My usual slant has been towards professional and scientific audiences – audiences where the expression of political opinions is looked upon with disfavor. I was taught in graduate school that scientific writing was  dispassionate, objective, and oriented towards establishing the facts. But it is impossible to write about guns, violence, crime, poverty, homelessness, hunger, social class, or even the American family without becoming aware of the polemical commentary that exists on these topics and without forming firm opinions about them. The conditions of the urban poor have occupied social scientists since Charles Booth wrote about them at the end of the 19th century. But whether the poor are poor because they are lazy or otherwise deficient, or because they are victims of larger social-structural forces, is a question that has occupied politicians and political commentators for at least as long. And on such matters, applied research can and should have relevant things to say.

Much of the science of social problems is intentionally indifferent to politics. Our job  is to get the facts straight and let others debate the implications. But much political commentary is apparently indifferent to the facts as social science has come to know them – and poorer as a result. Even granting that political and ideological biases are the death of social science, political debate that proceeds in ignorance of the facts can hardly prove beneficial either. Is there no room in the arena of political discourse for a middle way? For a polemic that is based in fact but considers larger consequences and implications? Can political opinions be challenged empirically? Is there any point to so doing?

The overarching framework that ties the various chapters of this book into a coherent whole is that public policy is well served when it is informed by the best research the social sciences have to offer. Ronald Reagan famously said that “we don’t need a bunch of sociology majors on the bench,” but the fact is, the Supreme Court makes reference to social science research in many of its decisions, and the same can be said about many Acts of Congress. More than many realize, the language of political discourse is suffused and enriched by the products of contemporary social science. Alas, in many cases, the results of social science are treated less as nuggets of insight than as stones to throw at one’s political opponents. In these pages, I indulge myself in a little throwing back.

The title is taken from a quotation by Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “If you don’t have 30 years to devote to social policy, don’t get involved.”

Current Status: Complete to first draft; completely revised once. Pp. 259 (double-spaced); 77,000 words.

Eel River Reveries: The Geology, Archaeology, Anthropology, History and Sociology of the Eel River Valley, with Special Attention to the Valley’s Largest City, Logansport

The Eel River Valley is too small and inconsequential to have had any books written about it, much less a book that follows the Eel from the last Ice Age to the day before yesterday.  So while there are many sources that contribute bits and pieces to the story of the Eel River, this book pulls all the pieces together into a coherent narrative.  Equal parts history and memoir, the book describes the formation of the Eel (and the Indiana river system) in the last (Wisconsin) glaciation, traces the archaeology of the native inhabitants, discusses the cultures in place at the first encounter with white Europeans, then follows the development of the Valley and its cities and towns through the 19th and 20th centuries and into the 21st.

Although small and largely inconsequential, the Eel River winds its way through my early life as certainly as it winds through nondescript Indiana farmland.  I was born in Logansport in 1947 and to me, the Eel (and its bigger companion the Wabash) were always a significant part of my life, a source of fun and companionship, a geographical marker, a place to cool off on hot Indiana afternoons, a place to fish for bass, blue gills and catfish, to skip rocks across the broad flat waters, to shoot squirrels and snakes – in short, a perfect stage where being a small-town Hoosier kid could be enacted.  Thus, the book also recounts a bygone time – the time of mid-century, mid-continent, middle America.

Current Status: Complete to first draft stage and revised once. 69,000 words; 140 single spaced pages.  To review the manuscript or converse with me, be in touch.

Left Over! A Guide to Using Up the Used Food

Did you ever open the fridge, stare at a bowl of leftover rice, and wonder if there was anything you could do with it besides “reheat and serve”?  Or looked at a dish of leftover broccoli and hoped it had already turned brown and gooey so you could throw it away without guilt?   Or stared at the remains of a big Thanksgiving Day feast and wondered, Now what?

If the answer to any of these is yes, Left Over! is the book for you!

Americans throw away more than 40% of the food they bring into their homes and while there are many reasons for this, a leading culprit is poor leftover management.  The key to reducing waste is therefore to repurpose leftovers – to re-engineer the remains of last night’s meal into something new, different, interesting, tasty and nutritious.  Left Over! is a guidebook on how to do just that.

Each chapter deals with a common leftover food item (pasta, potatoes, rice, meat, veggies, bread, etc.) and offers a few dozen suggestions for how the leftovers can be repurposed.  Most recipes feature Variations that extend the ingredients you can incorporate into the dish.

Status of Manuscript: Manuscript is completed and available for review.  137 pages, 35,000 words.  Photo-illustrated.  To review the manuscript or converse with me, get in touch.

Advance Praise for Left Over!

“I really like the idea of a leftovers cookbook; your approach and recipes are spot-on and make the ms very appealing…”  Sian Hunter, University Press of Florida

“I finally got around to reading your cookbook and it is awesome!  Seriously incredibly useful. I am one of those people with no imagination in the kitchen so my leftovers consist of reheating what I already ate or more commonly, throwing away what goes uneaten. And Bryn [daughter] despises eating the same meal two days in a row (she’s a princess apparently).  So this is awesome. I think the recipes are particularly useful when you get a few options for ingredients (i.e., pancetta but also regular bacon).  It really is so useful. I will be making some pasta later this week just to make pasta e fagioli this weekend!”  Amy Donley, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Central Florida

“This is great!  I see lots of recipes I want to make.  The potato quiche is one of them.  Might try that this weekend.  I love your sense of humor and could almost hear you saying the words as I read them in your book….”  Daryl Flynn, Orange County (Florida) School Board

“I am so enjoying your recipe book.  I love your ‘add whatever’ approach, and occasional comments like – ‘it does not look very good, yet tastes great.’  Not being much of a cook, I sometimes find recipe books intimidating, so precise – yours isn’t.  One of my favorites so far is the rice quiche crust.  How clever and fun!  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read your book.”  Abby Walters, Associate State Director, Florida AARP