First Bite: How We Learn to Eat
We are not born knowing what to eat; as omnivores it is something we each have to figure out for ourselves. From childhood onward, we learn how big a “portion” is and how sweet is too sweet. We learn to enjoy green vegetables—or not.
But how does this education happen? What are the origins of taste? In First Bite award-winning writer Bee Wilson draws on the latest research from food psychologists, neuroscientists, and nutritionists to reveal that our food habits are shaped by a whole host of factors: family and culture, memory and gender, hunger and love. Taking the reader on a journey across the globe, Wilson introduces us to people who can only eat foods of a certain color; prisoners of war whose deepest yearning is for a mother's apple pie; a nine-year-old anosmia sufferer who has no memory of the flavor of her mother’s cooking; toddlers who will eat nothing but hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches; and researchers and doctors who have pioneered effective ways to persuade children to try new vegetables. Wilson examines why the Japanese eat so healthily, whereas the vast majority of teenage boys in Kuwait have a weight problem—and what these facts can tell us all about how to eat better.
The way we learn to eat holds the key to why food has gone so disastrously wrong for so many people. But Wilson also shows that both adults and children have immense potential for learning new, healthy eating habits. An exploration of the extraordinary and surprising roots of our tastes and eating habits, First Bite also shows us how we can change our palates to lead healthier, happier lives.
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Advance Praise for First Bite
“This is a fascinating, at times provocative, investigation into how and why we eat what we do, how food can be both medicine and poison, and a call-to-arms manifesto to make eating guiltlessly pleasurable for all.” —Nigella Lawson
“Bee Wilson is the ultimate food scholar. First Bite is a brilliant study of how we form our food preferences and how we may be able to change them. Her narrative kept me hungry for more until the very end.” —Yotam Ottolenghi
“Why do we grow to love certain foods? How do our families and our memories affect our tastes?
What can we do to raise children to eat well and wisely? In First Bite, Bee Wilson blends science, history, and memoir to offer deep lessons about our relationship with food. This is an important book that is also hugely enjoyable, full of fascinating stories told with warmth and wisdom. An invaluable tool for understanding and overcoming our fraught relationship with food, Bee Wilson’s First Bite will change how you eat and how you live.” —Dan Jurafsky, author of
The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu
“Bee Wilson’s First Bite is the delicious and nourishing result of her deep research into the problem of proper eating. This important book brings together a library of recent studies on obesity, anorexia, and other pathologies that shorten life and make millions of sugar addicts and serial dieters miserable. She steers deliberately clear of counterproductive hectoring ‘advice,’ while offering instead a broad, food-loving, and philosophical approach for the perplexed omnivore.”
—Raymond Sokolov, former author of the “Eating Out” column for the Wall Street Journal
“No matter what our age, we hunger for childhood food. First Bite weaves together fascinating scientific research to show why we wish we were still kids in a sweet shop. The book’s powerful message is that we can tap into the way we learned to eat as children to discover new flavours and healthier food habits.” —Heston Blumenthal, head chef, The Fat Duck
Consider the Fork
Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious - or at least edible. But these tools have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about our food. Consider the Fork reveals the hidden history of some of the culinary objects we take for granted. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide machines of the modern kitchen, but also the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks. Blending history, science and personal anecdotes, this book is the story of how we tamed fire and ice and wielded whisks, spoons and graters, all for the sake of putting food in our mouths.
This is a lovely essay by the great New Yorker writer Jane Kramer using Consider the Fork as the starting point. 'A Fork of One's Own'.
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Praise for Consider the Fork:
'Leisurely but lively....A Pure joy to read' - Los Angeles Times
'Eloquent and Information-packed...A passionate gathering of information, diligently communicated, and an amused realism that brings us safely down to earth'. - New York Review of Books
'One part science, one part history and a generous dash of fun' - Good Housekeeping
Fake food, wrote Frederick Accum in 1820, had reached 'such a perfection of ingenuity' that 'spurious articles of various kinds are every where to be found, made up so skilfully as to baffle the discrimination of the most skilful judges'.
Have we ever been able to trust what we eat? Bad food has a history. Swindled tells it. Adulteration, like poverty, seems to be always with us, but the ingredients affected change constantly. As Pliny the Elder wrote in the first century AD 'So many poisons are employed to force wine ti suit our taste'. From fake tea leaves to swill milk, from ersatz coffee during the First World War to modern-day additives and food scandals - the swindlers are always with us. The question is what we do about them.
Through a mix of food politics, history and culinary detective work, Swindled uncovers the many methods by which swindlers have tampered with our food - and some of the ways that governments and individuals have tried to stop them. Swindled shows some of the ways we can learn to trust our food - and our own senses - again and embrace the pleasures of real whole food.
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Select praise for Swindled
'Wilson is a fervent lover of food but Swindled is no blind polemic...It is her considered and often humorous approach that makes this book so successful'.
'Rigorously researched...a fascinating and curiously uplifting read'.
'[Bee Wilson's] intellectual rigour and disciplined research skills prove a great match with her seamless and engaging writing - she manages to bring history alive,and leaves you wanting more.'
Ever since humans first hunted for honeycomb in rocks and daubed pictures of it on cave walls, the honeybee has been seen as one of the wonders of nature: social, industrious, beautiful, terrifying. No other creature has inspired in humans an identification so passionate, persistent or fantastical.
The Hive recounts the astonishing tale of the weird and wonderful things that humans believed about bees and their 'society' over the ages. IT ranges from the honey delta of ancient Egypt to the Tupelo forests of modern Florida, taking in a cast of characters including Alexander the Great and Napoleon, Sherlock Holmes and Rudolph Steiner.
The history of humans and honeybees is also a history of ideas, taking us through the evolution of science, religion, and politics - as well as the bee's impact on food and human ritual and the vast range of different honeys. Honey makes 'the human world seem larger and smaller at the same time'. And the same is true of honeybees.
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