Modern Food, Moral Food

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

By Helen Zoe Veit

320 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2647-5
    Published: August 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-0771-9
    Published: August 2013
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4017-2
    Published: August 2013

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Awards & distinctions

Finalist, 2014 James Beard Foundation Book Award

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.

About the Author

Helen Zoe Veit is associate professor of history at Michigan State University.
For more information about Helen Zoe Veit, visit the Author Page.


"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

"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

“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

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

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

“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