The University of Wisconsin Press

Food / Law / Popular Culture


Habeas Codfish
Reflections on Food and the Law
Barry M. Levenson

"Much more fun than having dinner with your lawyer!"—David Rosengarten, host of the Food Network's Taste program

From the McDonald's hot coffee case to the cattle ranchers' beef with Oprah Winfrey, from the old English "Assize of Bread" to current nutrition labeling laws, what we eat and how we eat are shaped as much by legal regulations as by personal taste. Barry M. Levenson, the curator of the world-famous (really!) Mount Horeb Mustard Museum and a self-proclaimed "recovering lawyer," offers in Habeas Codfish an entertaining and expert overview of the frustrating, frightening, and funny intersections of food and the law.

Discover how Mr. Peanut shaped the law of trademark infringement for the entire food industry. Consider the plight of the restaurant owner besmirched by a journalist's negative review. Find out how traditional Jewish laws of kashrut ran afoul of the First Amendment. Prison meals, butter vs. margarine, definitions of organic food, undercover ABC reporters at the Food Lion, the Massachusetts Supreme Court case that saved fish chowder, even recipes—it's all in here, so tuck in!

Barry M. Levenson is the curator and CMO (Chief Mustard Officer) of the National Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, where he has amassed the world's largest collection of mustards. Before his life as the world's foremost mustard authority, he was an assistant attorney general for the State of Wisconsin. He argued dozens of cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and is undoubtedly the only lawyer to have appeared before the United States Supreme Court with a jar of mustard in his pocket.

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the cover of Habeau Codfish is illustrated with a portrait of the inimitable Barry Levenson and several motifs representing famous cases in food and the law.

September 2001

324 pp. 2 b/w line drawings
6 x 9

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"Levenson has a demonstrated knack for writing in a conversational, witty tone that effectively keeps this reading light, even as he lays out complex issues ranging from copyright laws to libel."
—Lisa Wolff, associate editor of Gourmet News

Read about Levinson's appearance on TLC's "My Crazy Obsession" in the Capitol Times.

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Updated April 25, 2013

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