The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table

When award-winning working-class journalist Tracie McMillan saw foodies swooning over $9 organic tomatoes, she couldn’t help but wonder: What about the rest of us? Why do working Americans eat the way we do? And what can we do to change it?

To find out, McMillan went undercover in three jobs that feed America, living and eating off her wages in each. Reporting from California fields, a Walmart produce aisle outside of Detroit, and the kitchen of a New York City Applebee’s, McMillan examines the reality of our country’s food industry. Chronicling her own experience and that of the Mexican garlic crews, Midwestern produce managers, and Caribbean line cooks, with whom she works, McMillan goes beyond the food on her plate to explore the national priorities that put it there.

Fearlessly reported and beautifully written, The American Way of Eating goes beyond statistics and culture wars to deliver a book that is fiercely honest, strikingly intelligent and compulsively readable. In making the simple case that—city or country, rich or poor—everyone wants good food, McMillan guarantees that talking about dinner will never be the same again.

Praise for The American Way of Eating

“A compelling and cogent argument that eating healthily ought to be easier.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Valiant…McMillan’s undercover work for The American Way of Eating takes readers on an educational journey.” 

San Francisco Chronicle

“The book Ms. McMillan’s most resembles is Barbara Ehrenreich’s bestseller Nickel and Dimed. Like Ms. Ehrenreich, Ms. McMillan goes undercover amid this country’s working poor…This is a voice the food world needs.” 

–Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“A vivid, compassionate portrait of the working class.”

Portland Oregonian

About the Author

Photo by Roman Cho Photography

A working-class transplant from rural Michigan, Brooklyn-based writer Tracie McMillan has been covering America’s multiracial working class since the late 1990s. Rush Limbaugh once singled her out as an “overeducated” “authorette” and a threat to freedom. In 2012, Whole Living magazine named her a “Food Visionary,” building on her numerous appearances on radio and television programs, which range from the liberal “The Rachel Maddow Show” to the “tea-party favorite” Peter Schiff Show. She has written about food and class for a variety of publications, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, National Public Radio, Harper’s Magazine, Mother Jones, Saveur, and Slate. Read more at and follow Tracie on Twitter: @TMMcMillan 

Real Food Reads Recipes

In these winter months, there’s nothing like a good book and a cup of something hot to drink in your hands. Our resident recipe guru Jessica Jones weighs in with some tasty treats that’ll take your book club to the next level. Whether it’s you and your book on the couch or a whole crew of friends: it’s time to celebrate those shortened days with a warm glow from indoors. Check out Jessica’s blog and podcast, Food Heaven Made Easy, an online resource for delicious and nutritious plant-based living. Learn more about Jessica here.

Rosemary & Beet Roasted Pita Pizza


Serves 1

1 medium beet, peeled and quartered
1 sprig of rosemary
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 lime
1/4 cup water
1 whole wheat pita
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
3 pitted black olives, halved
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 425F
  2. Place the beets and rosemary on a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap these ingredients with the foil
  3. Bake for 20 minutes
  4. Allow to cool, and in a blender, add the roasted beets, garlic, chickpeas, juice of lime, and water
  5. Blend until smooth and consistent
  6. Warm the pita bread in the oven or on the stovetop for a couple of minutes
  7. Spread the beet paste onto the warm pita
  8. Top with cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and the roasted rosemary
  9. Drizzle olive oil over the pita, and finish off with salt and black pepper to taste. Enjoy!


Sugar Pumpkin Green Tea Soup 

From Food Heaven Made Easy

Serves 2

5 cups water
2 Green Tea bags
1/2 cup dried yellow split peas
1/4 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 cup cooked sugar pumpkin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Optional: Garnish with sun dried tomatoes and/or sliced jalapeño


  1. Start by bringing 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot
  2. Then add the tea bags and steep for 3-4 minutes
  3. Remove the tea bags, and add the split peas
  4. Cook over medium heat with the cover on for 35-40 minutes, or until the peas are tender
  5. Allow the cooked peas to cool, and in a blender, add everything in the pot (peas + liquid), onion, garlic, and the cooked sugar pumpkin
  6. Blend until a smooth, creamy consistency has been reached
  7. Pour the blend back into the pot, add 1 cup of water, and also add paprika and cumin
  8. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes
  9. Add salt and black pepper, to taste