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Leanne Brown on Eating

Leanne Brown, a food studies scholar and avid home cook, is the author of Good and Cheapa cookbook for people on tight budgets, particularly those on SNAP/food stamp benefits.

After the free PDF version went viral (downloaded more than one million times!), she launched a fundraising project to print the book, using a "get one, give one" system in which people who bought a book for themselves would then give another copy to a family in need.  

The project was a huge success, with over 70,000 printed copies given to people in need. The book has been distributed to organizations serving low-income families, such as food banks and community gardens. Combining practical recipes and appealing photographs with a communal approach, Good and Cheap emerged as an engaging meal guide — and a New York Times bestseller.

“I think everyone should eat great food every day,” Brown says. "Eating well means learning to cook. It means banishing the mindset that preparing daily meals is a huge chore or takes tremendous skill. Cooking is easy — you just have to practice.”

Leanne Brown offers three good books she see as "kind of peers, that fill out and touch on themes that I care about in my work and have influenced my thinking": 


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

Journalist Tracie McMillan goes undercover to answer the question, how can you eat in America when you don’t make a living wage? And to do this she works in three parts of America’s food industry that are most low paid and vulnerable. First in the fields alongside mostly Mexican laborers picking garlic, grapes and peaches, next in Detroit Walmart stocking produce, and finally in the kitchen at an Applebee’s in Brooklyn. Throughout her experiences McMillan vividly describes the tension between class and race and who gets to eat what and why in America. Her experiences working are fascinating, but it’s her life trying to get by on the wages she earns at these jobs that are even more inflaming. This is the complicated, deeply unfair food system we live in. Understanding it is essential for trying to make a difference within it.


Kitchens of the Great Midwest
by J. Ryan Stradal

Yes, this is a piece of fiction, not a cookbook or a self-help book or exposé. But food is personal! And in some ways fiction is the best way for us to express the personal. For the characters in Kitchens of the Great Midwest, especially the main character and her father, food is a language. It is the way they connect with others and express vulnerability and love. The only way to get through hard times is to eat as well as you can and love as much as you can. Stradal’s warm and funny book is satirical, yet loving as it contrasts and skewers the unpretentious midwest and the rise of foodie culture with it.


A Girl Called Jack: 100 Delicious Budget Recipes
by Jack Monroe

Jack Monroe is a kindred spirit from across the pond in England. I didn’t actually find out about her until after I released Good and Cheap but I’m so glad I did. Since writing the best-selling, A Girl called Jack, Jack has transitioned and now identifies as a man so I’ll use male pronouns for the duration of this write-up. A Girl Called Jack is full of recipes that grew out of his situation living on just £10 a week with a son to support. The recipes are inventive, filling, delicious and practical and throughout are Jack’s tips and anecdotes. The book was born of Jack’s wonderful blog which is still active today. 




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