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