A sharp, engaging education for food consumers and a font of ideas for restaurateurs and chefs as well.

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GASTROPHYSICS

THE NEW SCIENCE OF EATING

A spry book of cutting-edge food science.

We taste sweet at the front of the tongue and bitter at the back, right? Wrong. Thanks to what Spence (co-author: The Perfect Meal: The Multisensory Science of Food and Dining, 2014) characterizes as “the general neglect of the ‘lower’ senses by research scientists,” we’re brought up on all kinds of misinformation about food and the way our bodies respond to it. Enter “gastrophysics,” a new blend of various sciences with cultural and psychological elements of food preparation and presentation, which, in Spence’s hands, yields all sorts of aha moments—e.g., if they’re playing fast music in the restaurant you enter, it means they’re trying to get you out of there quickly. Part of this book seems an extended advertisement for Oxford’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory, which Spence, an experimental psychologist, directs and which conducts probes and disquisitions in what he calls “neurogastronomy.” But part is a disinterested—and highly interesting—examination of the widely diverse food domains we inhabit, the recognition of which should help chefs put aside the notion that anyone who tinkers with their spicing by adding salt at the table is an evil creature. They’re not, and seasoning a dish differently from how the chef prepared it is not an insult but, instead, “a form of customization that recognizes the very different taste worlds in which we all live.” Spence has a light touch and a knack for framing research questions in provocative headings: “What’s the link,” he asks, “between the humble tomato and aircraft noise?” It’s a question worth pondering should you have the dubious pleasure of being served an in-flight meal, just as you’ll learn here why the barista at Starbucks puts your name on the cup (hint: it’s not really a memory aid for said barista).

A sharp, engaging education for food consumers and a font of ideas for restaurateurs and chefs as well.

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2346-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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