Fortnum & Mason Food Book of the Year 2016
We are not born knowing what to eat. We all have to learn it as children sitting expectantly at a table. For our diets to change, we need to relearn the food experiences that first shaped us.
Everyone starts drinking milk. After that it’s all up for grabs.
We are not born knowing what to eat; we each have to figure it out for ourselves. From childhood onwards, we learn how big a portion is and how sweet is too sweet. We learn to love broccoli – or not. But how does this happen? What are the origins of taste? And once we acquire our food habits, can we ever change them for the better?
In First Bite, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson draws on the latest research from food psychologists, neuroscientists and nutritionists to reveal how our food habits are shaped by a whole host of factors: family and culture, memory and gender, hunger and love. She looks at the effects siblings can have on eating choices and the social pressures to eat according to sex. Bee introduces us to people who can only eat food of a certain colour; toddlers who will eat nothing but hot dogs; doctors who have found radical new ways to help children eat vegetables. First Bite also looks at how people eat in different parts of the world: we see how grandparents in China overfeed their grandchildren, and how Japan came to adopt such a healthy diet (it wasn’t always so).
The way we learn to eat holds the key to why food has gone so disastrously wrong for so many people. But Bee Wilson also shows that both adults and children have immense potential for learning new, healthy eating habits. An exploration of the extraordinary and surprising origins of our taste and eating habits, First Bite explains how we can change our palates to lead healthier, happier lives.
‘When you open First Bite and see science, don't panic. It is a weirdly addictive, intelligent and enjoyable explanation of why we eat as we do: more unputdownable than any non fiction has a right to be. Everyone should read it. And it might change your life. ‘ Charlotte Mendelson
‘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
‘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
‘If there were any justice in the world, this book should be at the top of this month's diet-book bestsellers … I agree with every word she writes' Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times
‘If any book can effect long-term weight loss, it should be this one, because it feeds the mind rather than denying the body’ The Times
‘First Bite is a feast of a book … Wilson’s focus on how we learn to eat rather than on what we eat is a refreshing new template for improving our relationship with food.’ Financial Times
‘First Bite is a brilliant read; a month after finishing it, I still think of it every time I set the table.’ Observer Food Monthly
"Most of what we learn about food happens when we're children when we're sitting at the kitchen table (if you're lucky enough to have one), being fed," says Wilson (Consider the Fork), a food writer and historian. Wilson takes a scholarly approach in this smart and telling journey that outlines food habits and where they originate. Mixing science with anecdotes, she incorporates past studies, including one landmark research study on infants' inherent patterns of taste, explicating the sometimes-conflicting theories scholars spun from the outcome, Wilson debunks the notion that appetite is genetic and the idea that the body naturally selects what it needs. Old reports are countered by the latest research from food psychologists, neuroscientists, and biologists. Using brief tales, Wilson details many disorders across the consumption spectrum in an insightful and earnest tone that appeals to food-lovers and parents. Discussing everything from adults with stringent eating patterns to gendered weight misperceptions and changes in cultural norms, Wilson delineates how diets develop and, more importantly, how to make healthy modifications.