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Published onApr 16, 2020

Ten years ago, Sean Matlis, a runner-friend of mine in Boston, agreed early one Saturday morning to join me for a visit to Boston’s Seaport warehouse district. We were on a quest to find loading docks, trucks, containers, and anything else that revealed how Boston got its food supply. We took our cameras, and I grabbed a notebook in case we saw something interesting. Long obsessed with how cities were fed, I was delighted that I had found someone who would humor me through this quest with the same amount of enthusiasm. Sean got me moving. Writers would never produce books if someone didn’t get come along with a friendly prod to get words on paper.

As I entered the research stage of writing this book, I was blessed to have many accomplices. As I traipsed around the world in search of stories about how different cities fed themselves, Lauren Shields introduced me to Parisian markets, Iris Anliatamer got me through the ingredient pathways in Istanbul, Maria Uskova explained how Moscow entrepreneurs were creating a new food system, and Elizabeth Andoh and Makiko Segawa showed me everything that goes into producing a simple rice ball in Japan. Professors McConville, Ferleger, and Wiley at Boston University indulged my insistence that being a food historian was a worthwhile endeavor. Their scholarship and mentorship while I pursued my PhD led me to wonder about feeding cities throughout history. And I am very grateful to Marion Swaybill for sharing her insights and ability to craft a good story.

Many of the workers who feed cities every day, from warehouse managers to sausage processors to truck drivers, invited me to see the inner workings of their operations, These people typically love what they do and find satisfaction in moving food forward through a supply chain.

The University of Texas at Austin provided patient support for this book project and access to its many experts on supply chains, transportation, and logistics. I was able to receive valuable advice all along the way. Lamar Johnson, one of UT’s supply chain experts, provided feedback on the manuscript from his perspective of the consumer packaged goods industry. Mary Ann Anderson, also a UT supply chain expert, provided access to student researchers Jack Loveridge and Daniel Peacock, who gathered material about how the global food supply chain operates.

Many thanks to my friends who cheered me on, including Steve Coit who came up with the idea for calling this project “Food Routes,” and Susan Trausch, an eloquent and humorous writer who assured me that I wasn’t too far off the mark and encouraged me as she read through the manuscript. The team at Food+City, a project based in Austin that supports food supply chain innovation, indulged my absence at meetings and missed deadlines as the deadline for this book approached. For their support, I am indeed grateful.

Other Austin supporters include Brittany Solano and Rachel Laudan, Addie Broyles, and Paige Blake, all patient listeners to the book’s story as it unfoquolded. In Maine, Julia Jahr-Olivas listened to the trials of book writing as we ran miles of mountain trails.

My editor at the MIT Press, Beth Clevenger, was the true believer in this project from the very beginning. From the start, she saw something in this story and doggedly pushed me to a much more interesting approach. And finally, my Austin editor, Sarah Weber, who provided a steady hand and calm tone as she produced one set of milestones after another, figuring how to navigate that sliver of a difference between insistence and forgiveness. Somehow she got it done.

And to my family, I am so grateful for their support and encouragement. Never a week went by when they were not all in with their enthusiasm. Thank you, Bob, Julia, Max, and my dad, another Bob.

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