Every time I read a book about food and culture, a book like Sophie Egan's Devoured, I end up chiding myself for being such a poor eater.
We cook quite a bit in our household, and the meals that we cook are mostly nutritious and whole; when we do go out—a couple of dinners a week and a few lunches here and there—we tend to eat (and drink) too much, too lavishly, too decadently. We know this is not healthy (my ever-growing stomach tells me this everyday), but yet, the habits are hard to shake.
Usually, books about food and culture make me feel bad about myself, about my habits and decisions. Devoured did not. Ms. Egan structures the book less like a polemic and more like an exploration, looking at how the primacy of work, freedom, progress, and diversity affects the kinds of decisions we make about what we eat. Instead of blaming the consumer, Ms. Egan looks at the systemic reasons why we eat what we do, and how the system perpetuates itself.
I still did, after reading Devoured, question my eating habits—I should do that regularly, to be honest—but I did it out of a place of understanding and not shame. This is the book's greatest strength: it doesn't make you feel bad. It just makes you more conscious.