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First Bite: How We Learn to Eat Paperback – November 8, 2016
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New York Times Book Review
[An] exhaustively researched book.... [T]he central premise of First Bite is one that we'd all be wise to see as liberating, generous and ultimately optimistic: If we learned what and how to eat as babies, we can unlearn and relearn and actually change what Wilson sees as our collectively chaotic relationships with food.... First Bite is, first and foremost, an anthropological category killer on the topic of how we learn to eat.”
Wall Street Journal
[A] fascinating new book.... First Bite should be read by every young parent, and is a good resource for adults with eating disorders and those with more prosaic problems like waistline drift. There are some very useful ideas within these pages, and none of the usual pseudoscientific bunk that plagues books about diet. Carefully crafted, astutely served, delicious and nourishing: First Bite is a real treat.”
Food writer Wilson probes the psychology of food memories, dips into the chemistry of flavor and digs deep into the physiological and social roots of obesity in this smorgasbord of insights.”
[Wilson] proves to be a clear-eyed and level-headed guide to the fraught and fretful landscape of contemporary dietary research.... Wilson is a lucid and compelling writer, weaving nimbly between historical narrative, scientific research, and personal anecdote.”
[M]eticulously researched.... Wilson makes a strong argument that we can relearn the art of eating.' This process doesn't necessarily start with nutrition, but with taking pleasure in food.”
The nicest thing about First Bite...is that Wilson truly believes that foods that taste good and foods that are good for you are not mutually exclusive.... Wilson is most interesting when she examines social environments, particularly how families and peers influence eating habits.”
Clearly, [Wilson] has not only written a fascinating book about identity and how our tastes and food preferences are formed (and can be changed), she is also truly wise.”
[A] smart and telling journey that outlines food habits and where they originate.... 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.”
The New Yorker, Page Turner blog
Wilson...often uses the topic of food as a gateway to explore the intersecting histories of ideas, culture, technology, and society.... [Her] interest in First Bite lies in how the combined forces of culture, memory, and long-standing food preferences lead individuals to perpetuate the often unhealthy eating habits they've inherited.”
Albany Times Union's Books Blog
Wilson skillfully shares research, contemporary food issues across the world, and anecdotes from her own experiences along with nutritionists and psychologists to demonstrate that everyone learns to eat, therefore we can unlearn bad habits through recognition and retraining.... It's a book that anyone can connect to.”
Raymond Sokolov, former author of the Eating Out” column for the Wall Street Journal
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.”
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.”
Winnipeg Free Press
Every chapter has a full tray of factual bon-bons.... Wilson is an eclectic writer; although she peppers her prose with anecdotes about her own kids, she does a fair bit of globetrotting as well, with jaunts to India, China and Japan.... Snug between each chapter, like a leaf in a recipe book, is a tiny essay on a particular food: beets, chocolate and milk all make an appearance at the table.... [An] upbeat eight-course meal for the erudite foodie.”
That I scoured this book for feeding hints doesn't mean it is primarily an advice book. First Bite is more an exploration of overlapping topics food, family, memory, marketing with reminders, again and again, to pause and re-examine what we think we know.... [Wilson] knows that people are weary of being lectured at, and that there is scant evidence to suggest that simply telling people to eat better does any good. But there are nuggets of wisdom deposited throughout the book that, taken together, point toward a new way of thinking about food.”
[A] well-informed...guide to healthy eating and a well-balanced diet.... 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.”
[A] fascinating new book.... Wilson sprinkles just enough personal narrative through First Bite to establish her as a sympathetic figure without turning the book into a memoir.... Her tone is refreshingly loose and friendly; she's one of the few food scholars I can think of who can effectively quote both Margaret Mead and Homer Simpson. Ultimately, her message is a hopeful, even liberating, one bolstered by examples large and small.”
Wilson lays out her discoveries in a series of easily digestible chapters that balance science and anecdote with short interludes on various foods.... She makes a case for health, but even more so, for pleasure, for enjoying what we eat.... Her tone is down-to-earth and research-based at once, gentle, encouraging, no-nonsense. The book lacks the self-helpery pap that mars so many best-selling books about food, but offers up advice and well-supported information on how we can teach ourselves and our children to eat.”
Scientific American Mind
First Bite is a worthy read that provides sharp insights into how our tastes evolve. Notably the book offers all of us Pringles fiends and Hostess hounds a chance at redemption with sage advice on how to quit junk-food addictions and change even the most ingrained eating habits.”
Wilson's book is, at its core about the pleasure of eating and how we can reconnect with this.... Drawing on nutritional science, neuroscience, anthropology, economics, literature, history and occasionally autobiography, 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.”
The Guardian, UK
[D]elightful.... The overarching question is how we acquire our tastes and what, if anything, might be done to change them both for our kids and for ourselves. That is a refreshingly different way of structuring a discussion of how we eat now and how we should eat better . The well-meaning experts lecture us about what we ought to eat; Wilson wants to understand why we eat what we do. And to her immense credit, she thinks that taste, pleasure, emotion, and memory both fond and horrid are important parts of the story.”
The Times, UK
Everyone will identify with something in First Bite, be it the analysis of why some of us don't like beetroot or the distant memories of being ordered to clear your plate by an earlier generation who had grown up in terror of waste . If any book can effect long-term weight loss, it should be this one, because it feeds the mind rather than denying the body.”
Sunday Times, UK
If there were any justice in the world, this book should be at the top of this month's diet-book bestsellers. But what makes First Bite so readable is Wilson's candour about her own relationship with food and her valiant but not always successful attempts not to pass on her fads to her three children.”
The Independent, UK
Written with her customary acuity and readability, First Bite is primarily concerned with demolishing the mountain of twaddle that has accrued around our vexed relationship with food.... Despite having a violent antipathy to diet books, I was won over by Wilson's arguments. Her views are sensible, persuasive and cognisant of human failings. More than anything I've ever read, this book explained to me why I am the shape that I am and how I can do something about it.”
Wilson writes vividly with a huge range of references as she pursues her quest to understand how we can be persuaded to eat what's good for us.... [H]er insights are invaluable.”
New Statesman, UK
[A] book that is never less than engaging... If First Bite can be summed up in a single sentence, it is this: in order to change what you eat, you must first change what you like.... [An] eminently sensible and very readable book.”
First Bite is an addictively-readable insight into our dietary peccadillos. Packed with anecdotes and studies from around the world, it shows that our tastes are not innate, but something we've learned in childhood: our first nibbles of solids, our memories, our ideas of love and comfort they all go into the melting pot of what we now crave, and what disgusts us.”
[A] lucid survey.... [Wilson] dishes up an impressive range of research in neuroscience and nutrition on topics from the evolution of the Japanese diet to babies' self-directed preferences for, say, turnips, as demonstrated in the fascinating, flawed work of twentieth-century US paediatrician Clara Davis.”
Bee Wilson's new book First Bite takes on the subject of how we learn to eat as children and the habits we end up with as adults.... The good news in the book is that some of our bad habits even the bad habits we've passed on to our offspring can in theory be undone.... First Bite collects an impressively wide range of success stories from this front.... While First Bite does not introduce itself as a self-help guide, its pages contain a generous portion of no-pressure advice, doled out in a sensible but soothing manner.”
"First Bite is both a rich social history for those interested in the relationship people have with food and an encouraging word for harried parents hoping to expand their children's culinary horizons."
National Post, Canada
Wilson confronts a basic but perplexing question: how does each of us decide what we like to eat? Are we born with innate preferences? Or are our food habits shaped by family, culture, geography, even emotionsand to what degree?”
Wilson taps uncannily into a number of food anxieties . [She] wrote First Bite: How We Learn To Eat as a study of taste preferences and food habits, but it is really an economics book. Economics is the study of scarcity and choice Wilson's ingenious turn is looking at our preferences -- the demand.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
absorbing read... timely.”
[First Bite] provides in-depth discussion of what makes us indulge, enjoy, crave, dislike, and choose the tastes and provisions that we do. This work will appeal to food scientists, parents wishing to know the roots of their children's meal choices, and curious readers in general.”
London Review of Books, UK
[A] brilliant, heartfelt book about [the] crisis in our contemporary diet.... Wilson is intelligent, passionate, sincere, tirelessly curious and endlessly willing to admit mistakes and learn from experience.”
The Observer, UK
Enlightening and sparky.... Wilson is a brilliant researcher and in this, her fifth book, she has unearthed science that makes sense of our most intimate and tender worlds.... What's ultimately wonderful about [First Bite] is the way it sends you back to the development of your own palate.”
About the Author
author of numerous books including Consider the Fork, Wilson lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom.
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Top customer reviews
A condensed version: This title is great for someone looking to learn about the ability to learn how to eat and, more importantly, re-learn how/what to eat. Wilson's style of writing is very journalistic (as she is a prominent British journalist), meaning that she provides a study and then fluffs out her point of view by including some more studies, which takes away from the novel's value. Wilson does not address some of the more important issues with today's food problems and blames the weight crisis solely on the point that children were not taught to eat with enough variety or the "right" foods. This is opposed by the obvious notion that ALL foods (including chicken and vegetables) are packed with all manner of artificial garbage, genetically and otherwise, that our bodies do not know how to process, thus causing a weight crisis and a point she completely ignores in her text.
In this book she investigates how and why we acquire food preferences, and the consequences of those preferences. This involves her delving into biology, chemistry, history, sociology, and a great deal of personal experience.
The science and history of how we decide what and what not to eat is fascinating, although I was not as interested in the emphasis on the many ways that children fail to eat properly or even at all sometimes. Those who are parents or who have vivid memories of their own childhood experiences with food will probably appreciate these discussions more.
Perhaps the most important finding that Wilson details is that food preferences are not set in stone -- you can learn to enjoy food that you've always avoided. Further, whole societies (Japan is her best example) can change their diets for the better. It gives us all a bit of hope that we can reverse the alarming trends of the past several decades.
Wilson also branches out into new territory by actually providing some recommendations on how to deal with the food idiosyncrasies of children and with our own diets as adults.
(Thanks to NetGalley and Basic Books for a digital review copy.)