Modern Food, Moral Food: Self-Control, Science, and the Rise of Modern American Eating in the Early Twentieth Century

Helen Zoe Veit (Author)


American eating changed dramatically in the early twentieth century. As food production became more industrialized, nutritionists, home economists, and so-called racial scientists were all pointing Americans toward a newly scientific approach to diet. Food faddists were rewriting the most basic rules surrounding eating, while reformers were working to reshape the diets of immigrants and the poor. And by the time of World War I, the country's first international aid program was bringing moral advice about food conservation into kitchens around the country. In Modern Food, Moral Food, Helen Zoe Veit argues that the twentieth-century food revolution was fueled by a powerful conviction that Americans had a moral obligation to use self-discipline and reason, rather than taste and tradition, in choosing what to eat.
Veit weaves together cultural history and the history of science to bring readers into the strange and complex world of the American Progressive Era. The era's emphasis on science and self-control left a profound mark on American eating, one that remains today in everything from the ubiquity of science-based dietary advice to the tenacious idealization of thinness.

Product Details

University of North Carolina Press
Publish Date
August 01, 2015
6.2 X 0.79 X 9.14 inches | 1.01 pounds

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About the Author

Helen Zoe Veit is Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University. She specializes in American history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, focusing on the history of food and nutrition. She is the author of Modern Food, Moral Food: Self-Control, Science, and the Rise of Modern American Eating in the Early Twentieth Century, and general editor of the American Food in History Series.


An insightful and very well written history of America in the Progressive Era through the lenses of food and eating.--H-Soz-u-Kult

Proof that food history is a serious academic discipline that can stand alone or interweave with women's studies, ethnic studies, sociology, economics, or health sciences. Highly recommended. All academic and large public library collections.--Choice

It's not surprising to learn that food is tangled with perceptions of race, class, health, and patriotism. What is surprising is that Helen Zoe Veit has found the source of our current perceptions in the turn-of-the-century Progressive era.--Appetite for Books

Reveals many of the surprising ways in which changing food practices influenced the broader culture. . . . Full of fascinating history.--Hedgehog Review

A valuable contribution to the discipline of food studies and stylistically accessible to nonacademic readers.--Journal of American History

Veit succeeds in illuminating the changes in Americans' relationship with food in the early twentieth century and also provides the foundation for further inquiry on the topic.--H-Net

Original and sharp. Grounded in a rich documentary record and gracefully written, the book provides skillful interpretation and is enjoyable to read.--Journal of Southern History

Will encourage a new direction in the discourse of food, modernism, acculturation and progressive reform.--Journal of Social History

[Makes] important--and distinct--contributions to both American studies and food studies.--Journal of American Studies

Veit has delved deeply into the archives on this topic, emerging with one of the best works of its kind. It may well be the 'crossover' book that many food scholars have tried to write for the last few years.--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Ambitious and thought-provoking.--Isis

Brings together a lively primary source base with astute argumentation to create a compelling, important contribution to the study of food, health, and modernization in America.--Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences