FIRST BITE by Bee Wilson


How We Learn to Eat
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An exploration of the notion that we can change our early food habits.

Following her lively and strikingly original history of culinary tools and techniques, Consider the Fork (2012), Wilson enters the increasingly crowded category of diet and nutrition with a well-informed, albeit overly earnest guide to healthy eating and a well-balanced diet. She demonstrates the ways our tastes and eating habits, formed at our earliest stages of development and influenced by friends, siblings, and overwhelmingly aggressive marketing campaigns, can often lead to a variety of eating disorders. “My premise…is that the question of how we learn to eat—both individually and collectively—is the key to how food, for so many people, has gone so badly wrong,” writes the author. “The greatest public health problem of modern times is how to persuade people to make better food choices.” Wilson maintains a strong belief in change and sets out to prove how it is possible. In such chapters as “Likes and Dislikes,” “Feeding,” “Hunger,” “Disorder,” and “Change,” the author shares numerous anecdotes from her personal life—she had to overcome challenges as an overweight teenager and later as a mother of picky eaters—to underscore wide-ranging case-study results, often with encouraging outcomes. A profound example is the huge cultural shift in eating that has taken place in Japan over the past 50 years; prior to that, the current diet of fresh fish and rice was not customary. In a sublimely entertaining early chapter, flashes of M.F.K. Fisher or Diane Ackerman may come to mind as Wilson describes how the subtle influences of scent and taste can trigger memory, “the single most powerful driving force in how we learn to eat; it shapes all of our yearnings.”

With generous measures of grounded wisdom and solid research findings, the book should attract and possibly inspire broad groups of readers struggling with eating-related issues; for others, it may be of less interest.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-465-06498-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2015


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