McMillan gives food for thought

Author and journalist Tracie McMillan took the stage of Lang Hall Auditorium to discuss her book “The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table,” on Oct. 14.

For the book, McMillan went undercover in a Detroit Walmart produce aisle, California garlic fields and a New York Applebee’s kitchen.

The book chronicles her immersion into the lower class, investigating the way American food is made and the people who make it.

“I think everyone wants good food, and having a discussion about food is necessary to affect modern political discourse,” said McMillan.

She was brought to UNI Monday night as a Reaching for Higher Ground keynote speaker. Her book relates to this year’s theme, Food Matters.

While McMillan said the majority of reviews of her book were positive, she did receive some opposition. Radio host Rush Limbaugh described McMillan as “over-educated” but not necessarily intelligent, according to the show’s official transcript. However, she took the opposition in stride.

“He didn’t pick on me because I had a bad idea; he picked on me because I had a powerful idea,” said McMillan.

After her presentation, there was a question-and-answer session followed by a book signing.

“It seemed to go really well. I have a hard time judging those things, but it’s always really nice when people actually do ask questions during the Q-and-A. And nobody booed or hissed, so I always consider that a victory,” said McMillan.

“The American Way of Eating” is the book used in this year’s Cornerstone common read program. The program requires all first-year students to read the book prior to coming to the University of Northern Iowa. It is meant to give students a common ground for discussion.

“I think that what the common read projects do is create a means by which we can create community. If students come to UNI with nothing else in common, maybe they’ve read this book,” said liberal arts core director Deirdre Heistad.

Matthew Weedman, associate theater professor at UNI, adapted McMillan’s book for the stage. This is the third adaptation of a given year’s common read program book. McMillan saw the adaption in Strayer-Wood Theatre during her time at UNI.