ABOUT Fresh: A Perishable History
That rosy tomato perched on your plate in December is at the end of a great journey—not just over land and sea, but across a vast and varied cultural history. This is the territory charted in Fresh. Opening the door of an ordinary refrigerator, it tells the curious story of the quality stored inside: freshness.
We want fresh foods to keep us healthy, and to connect us to nature and community. We also want them convenient, pretty, and cheap. Fresh traces our paradoxical hunger to its roots in the rise of mass consumption, when freshness seemed both proof of and an antidote to progress.
Susanne Freidberg begins with refrigeration, a trend as controversial at the turn of the twentieth century as genetically modified crops are today. Consumers blamed cold storage for high prices and rotten eggs but, ultimately, aggressive marketing, advances in technology, and new ideas about health and hygiene overcame this distrust.
Freidberg then takes six common foods from the refrigerator to discover what each has to say about our notions of freshness. Fruit, for instance, shows why beauty trumped taste at a surprisingly early date. In the case of fish, we see how the value of a living, quivering catch has ironically hastened the death of species.
And of all supermarket staples, why has milk remained the most stubbornly local? Local livelihoods; global trade; the politics of taste, community, and environmental change: all enter into this lively, surprising, yet sobering tale about the nature and cost of our hunger for freshness.
Look for Susanne's guest posts about Fresh on Freakonomics.com. New story posted March 18.
Coming Up: March 26, 7:00-9:00 pm, MIT Student Center. Susanne speaks at a forum about Food Locavorism.
Listen to Susanne on WNYC's Leonard Lopate show.
Fresh: A Perishable History will go on sale in late April. Order your copy now!
"Fresh is an engagingly original way of looking at food history, both
thought-provoking and entertaining." --Mark Kurlansky, author of
The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell
"In this highly readable and sophisticated book, Freidberg traces the ambiguous
history of freshness in food. Despite its 'natural' associations, freshness has
been produced, engineered, marketed, and valued in a variety of ways over the
course of the last century. Broadly accessible, richly comparative, and written
with flair, Fresh will appeal to a wide audience." --Julie Guthman, author of Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in
"This is the right book at the right time. Freidberg provides a masterful
of the complex web of labor practices, technological innovations, corporate
and consumer choices that have produced the items that confront us each time we
open the refrigerator door. Fresh successfully uses the stuff of everyday life
to explain complex historical, cultural, and social phenomena. After reading
compelling work, you'll never look at a carton of eggs or head of lettuce the
same again." --Carolyn de la Pena, author of The Body Electric: How Strange Machines Built the
"In this lively and compelling book, Freidberg unearths the secrets within our
refrigerators as she explores what is natural and unnatural about freshness. How
have commerce and industry shaped our seasonless abundance? Where did the fruit
grow? How far have the beef and fish traveled? Whose labor and risks do the
hide? Fresh shows why such questions matter as it reveals how our notions and
expectations of fresh food changed over the last century. It challenges us to
look differently at our food." --Pamela Walker Laird, author of Pull and Advertising Progress
"Freidberg opens the fridge on a world few have considered: how the advent of
cold storage subverted ideas of freshness, shifted power from consumers and
to middlemen, and virtually eliminated seasonality. We all like lettuce in
but Freidberg's ingenious and spirited Fresh serves to remind us of its
environmental, and social cost." --Elizabeth Royte, author of Bottlemania and Garbage Land
Author Photo by Marilyn Humphries