All posts tagged: health

Vegemite: Advertising and the Making of an Australian Icon

Chocolate-like in appearance but with a flavor like nothing else on earth, the yeast extract spread Vegemite is essentially synonymous with Australia. Hired by the ambitious Fred Walker to create a copy of the British spread, Marmite (which coincidentally has an adorable Twitter feed), food scientist Cyril Callister developed Vegemite in 1923. Based on a mutual interest in developing a processed cheese with a longer shelf life, Walker joined forces with James Kraft, forming the Kraft Walker Cheese Company in 1926, whose Melbourne factory and head offices are pictured below (image 1). High in B vitamins during an historical moment when vitamins themselves were a new scientific phenomenon, Vegemite was from the beginning marketed by the Fred Walker Company as nutritious, particularly for children. For example, a Vegemite advertisement from the 1920s assured consumers that “there is no food richer in vitamins than Vegemite” and a point of sale advertisement from the 1930s emphasized the spread’s nutritional content and the themes of vitality, health, and childhood (image 2). Despite its vitamin content, consumers were initially slow to …

Publication Update! Toned Tummies & Bloated Bellies: Activia Yogurt & Gendered Digestion

I’m thrilled to share that my article, “Toned Tummies and Bloated Bellies: Activia Yogurt and Gendered Digestion,” was recently published in CuiZine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures. I blogged about this project when I first completed it about a year ago and could not be more honored that it was selected as CuiZine‘s best graduate student paper in 2013 by a committee featuring the food writers, scholars, and researchers Maeve Haldane, Ian Mosby, and David Szanto. As I analzyed this probiotic yogurt that continues to populate the dairy case with its iconic green containers, I drew from print and online advertisements, product packaging, press coverage, and industry reports, as well as a variety of secondary sources that analyze digestion as a cultural act. When I first began this study, Jamie Lee Curtis served as a spokeswoman so enthusiastic that her commercials had become the stuff of Saturday Night Live parody. Most all Activia advertisements targeted women, many featuring feminine touches, from the product’s waist-like logo to commercials’ girly jingle—“Ac-tiv-i-aaaah!” Furthermore, whether a print ad or TV commercial, nearly every marketing effort …

Interdisciplinarity & Health: 10 Posts to Celebrate National Public Health Week

During April’s first full week each year, the American Public Health Association celebrates National Public Health Week, a time to bring together communities from sea to shining sea to focus on the contributions and aspirations of public health. National Public Health Week 2014 focuses on the following themes: Be healthy from the start. From maternal health and school nutrition to emergency preparedness, public health starts at home. Don’t panic. Disaster preparedness starts with community-wide commitment and action. Get out ahead. Prevention is now a nationwide priority. Let us show you where you fit in. Eat well. The system that keeps our nation’s food safe and healthy is complex. Be the healthiest nation in one generation. Best practices for community health come from around the globe. In celebration of all that public health is, does, and can do, I offer up these ten previously published posts on the theme of health: 1. Typhoid Mary: Public Health Menace or Plucky Bad Ass? Commonly known as “Typhoid Mary,” Mary Mallon was incarcerated for a total of 26 years in isolation on North Brother Island for unknowingly spreading …

‘Graduate School Will Kill You’ and Other 18th Century Health Advice for the Studious

Before I began my doctoral studies, I worked for five years in the field of worksite wellness, an experience that made me painfully aware of the growing evidence that sedentarism—spending too many hours sitting on one’s glorious behind—has deleterious health effects. Unfortunately, as a striving academic, I often find myself seated squarely on my rear for what sometimes feels like endless amounts of time. While many a modern day inforgraphic can summarize how sitting may be killing us, William Buchan, MD’s domestic medicine manual, Domestic Medicine Or, a Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases By Regimen and Simple Medicines (1772, second edition) provides period recommendations for the studious, which I found entertaining, enlightening, affirming, and worrisome in equal measure.[1] Many of Buchan’s recommendations ring as true today as they did nearly 250 years ago. Buchan writes: Intense thinking is so destructive to health, that few instances can be produced of studious persons who are strong and healthy, or live to an extremely old age. Hard study always implies a sedentary life; and, when intense thinking is joined to …

Literature: A Novel Foundation for Symmetrical Dialogue in the Successful Physician-Patient Relationship

While I most often blog about food, I’ve been thinking a lot about doctors lately for family reasons. Thus, the energy that I usually so easily channel into my professional and academic life is at the moment uncontrollably directed into worrying. I’ve been attempting to cope by watching way too much television on Netflix, which has likely exacerbated the situation. In any event, the state of things has caused me to want to share with you a bit about a medical humanities course I once took as an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma. The course, Literature and Medicine, was co-taught by English professor, Ronald Schleifer, and physician / Medical School professor, Jerry Vannatta, MD. As Vannatta shares in a Sooner Magazine article (2005): The course examines the relationship of the humanistic study of literature and language with the art and science of medicine through literary and non-literary descriptions and narratives and examines somatic, psychological, scientific and social conceptions of illness and health. Here is where the double meaning of this post’s title comes in. Within the scope of …

“It’s Always Summer-time in Your Kitchen:” Food Safety as Depicted in Home Refrigerator Advertising in the Interwar Years

What follows is an expanded abstract for the paper, “‘It’s Always Summer-time in Your Kitchen:’ Food Safety as Depicted in Home Refrigerator Advertising in the Interwar Years.”  Americans currently live in an age when food safety scares are headline news and an issue of concern for consumers. Take for example the ever-expanding peanut butter salmonella recall. While foodborne illness is a product of a long and complex food supply chain, its effects are often experienced in domestic environments of food consumption, such as the home kitchen. In fact, the evolution of the modern kitchen sits within a larger historical narrative of consumer food safety. Consider the home refrigerator, for example. Several scholars herald household refrigeration as one of the most important food safety achievements of the twentieth century (CDC 1999: 906; FPT 2011: 132; Roberts 2001: 29). Perhaps not coincidentally, the rise in home refrigerator ownership was coupled with, and fueled by, fervent consumer messaging from refrigerator marketers and home economics specialists alike. In his analysis, Peter Grahame argues that there is great variance among the content of …

Which Came First: The Fear of Cholesterol or the Egg?

One of the reasons I went to public health school was because the public tends to think that eating well is a complicated endeavor from a nutrition perspective. If one allows herself to be buffeted by the waves of new research studies with their ever-conflicting results, then yes, eating well does become a daunting task. New research on eggs has brought these thoughts to the forefront, yet again. Hence, I quip, which came first: the fear of cholesterol or the egg? If you’re not familiar with the flip-flopping advice to either abstain or enjoy eggs, here are a few (totally randomly selected) studies that demonstrate the ever-oscillating status of eggs in the American diet. 1958: First published in 1928, Nutrition: In Health and Disease, a reference collectively written by Lenna Cooper, Edith Barber, Helen Mitchell, and Henderika Rynbergen—which I bought at a used bookstore in Duncan, Oklahoma—imposes no limits on egg consumption, rather recommending, “The ideal standard is 1 egg a day if possible.” 1999: The International Task Force for the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease recommended …

Chain Restaurant “Diet” Menus: Serving Up Guilt with a Side of Sin

Guilt is frequently linked to food in a dysfunctional way and is founded in a belief system that gives food and eating a moral value. Notably, Paul Rozin et al.’s (1999) landmark food psychology study found that compared to Japanese and European subjects, Americans restricted their diets the most, feeling the most guilt and dissatisfaction. The moral construct of food consumption is an important part of American food culture and is what Paul Campos refers to as “orthodox diet theology” (2004: 75). Using this theology, some foods are deemed good, while others are bad, and thus guilt-inducing. The themes of guilt and morality are often used to sell entrees at chain restaurants, usually dishes that are considered “healthy” or low-calorie options. Patrons are encouraged to order from “diet” menus, which claim to offer dishes that make eating out a guilt-free experience. Among 200 menu options (some of which contain more than 1,000 calories), The Cheesecake Factory launched the “SkinnyLicious® Menu” in 2011, which Bruce Horowitz in USA Today argues was a result of “pressure from calorie counters, advocacy groups and party poopers” (Horovitz). At Applebee’s (a …

Please Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself: 5 Images That Summarize My Food Studies Interests

I’m a food studies student, who obviously loved Jay-Z’s Black Album when I was in college, which feels like a long time ago. As I continue my interdisciplinary studies of food, nutrition, and public health, this blog is a place for some of my finished work, as well as lots of projects that are in process or ideas that are just rumbling around in my mind. Please feel free to comment and engage! It’s okay to be critical, but please be kind. Most of my interests are encapsulated in the cover header I created for this blog… Image 1: MyPlate — Nutrition Education & Food Politics  Introduced in 2011, MyPlate is the USDA’s current nutrition education tool, replacing the 2005 tool, MyPyramid, a bit of a disaster, which built upon the 1992 Food Guide Pyramid, which anyone from my generation learned in elementary school. The plate image has been used previously, such as in the UK’s eatwell plate and the Plate Method used and evaluated in the US. While I feel conflicted about whether we should be telling, instructing, or cajoling people into eating a certain …