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Book review

Outside the Box


Book review

The mother of a young son, living in Rome, Marshall explores how global trends in food marketing affect the lives of children everywhere.

Outside the Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products
by Jeannie Marshall
Random House Canada, 2012, 288 pages, $29.95
ISBN: 978-0-307-36003-8

One of the hardest things about reviewing books is that when you find something exceptional to share with readers, there’s never enough room to speak your mind. Case in point: Outside the Box. My copy’s pages are plastered with sticky notes marking the points I want to highlight here. But with so many important ideas contained therein, and so many notes, this review can’t do the book justice.

My love affair with this book began at first sight—before opening the cover. Not only does the jacket sport a hot title, but its design is perfect. There’s a whole lot of message contained in the title’s simple graphic, underscored by an attention-getting subtitle.

Inside we find a well-written first-person account by a thoughtful, articulate, vibrant Canadian writer who lives in Rome. As the mother of a young son, and living in the cultural bosom of the foodie world, Jeannie Marshall has a unique perspective on the subject of how global trends in food marketing affect the lives of children everywhere. Oh, how I wish I had written this book!

If Outside the Box can be compared to a great meal, then Marshall is seated at the head of the table. Her guests are some of today’s most passionate and influential food writers. Throughout the book their ideas (and well-referenced facts) are interwoven with the author’s personal analysis of the changes in how children are led to think about food. The text is rich with engaging personal anecdotes laden with the sights, smells, and fresh flavours of Italy.

By stimulating our appetites in this way, Marshall reminds us of what is sorely missing in the lives of most children today—a taste for real food. At the same time she celebrates food culture, she also describes how society’s changing values about how, when, and what we eat are eroding not only the health of our children, but also our basic understanding of the word “food.”

If you love food, you’ll love this book. Reading it will leave you hungry for the pleasure of great, simple food and for children to enjoy it with.

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