- Paperback: 244 pages
- Publisher: Island Press; New edition edition (June 7, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1597260916
- ISBN-13: 978-1597260916
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,153,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Why Some Like It Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity New edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
With 21st-century science promising better living through genetic engineering, and myriad diet fads claiming to be the answer to obesity and disease, this exploration of the coevolution of communities and their native foods couldn't be more timely. Ethnobiologist Nabhan (Coming Home to Eat) investigates the intricate web of culture, food and environment to show that even though 99.9% of the genetic makeup of all humans is identical, "each traditional cuisine has evolved to fit the inhabitants of a particular landscape or seascape over the last several millennia." Sardinians are genetically sensitive to fava beans, which can give them anemia but can also protect them from the malaria once epidemic in the region. Navajos are similarly sensitive to sage. In both cases, traditional knowledge allows safe interactions with these powerful medicine/poisons through cooking methods or food combinations. Nabhan questions the wisdom of genetic therapy, which "normalizes" the "bad" genes that can cause sickness but also enhance immunity. Most inspiring in this bioethnic detective story are Cretans, maintaining their health for centuries through traditional living, and Native Americans and Hawaiians, whose communities, devastated by diabetes, find an antidote by returning to their traditional foods, customs and agriculture. Mixing hard science with personal anecdotes, Nabhan convincingly argues that health comes from a genetically appropriate diet inextricably entwined with a healthy land and culture.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Ethnobotanist and nutritional ecologist Nabhan continues the paradigm-altering investigation into the matrix of food, place, ethnicity, and well-being that he's been conducting in such influential books as Coming Home to Eat (2002). A leading voice in the slow-food movement and a thoroughly engaging guide, Nabhan now delineates the evolutionary dimension of newly recognized interactions among cuisine, culture, and genetics that inspired him to modify an old adage: "We are what our ancestors ate and drank." He teases out the evolutionary secrets of chili peppers and explains why some folks like them hot and others can't take the heat. Since it's easiest to see the hidden benefits of ethnic cuisines in isolated island societies, he travels to Sardinia, where, for centuries, fava beans have protected the populace from malaria, and to Hawaii, where natives have discovered that traditional yet neglected taro dishes control diabetes. With millions of people suffering from little-understood food-related maladies, Nabhan's revelations of the complexities of our inherited interactions with food, the true significance of the healthful "synergies" of traditional ethnic cuisines, and the essentiality of both biodiversity and cultural diversity are as critical as they are fascinating. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
I must concede, however, that some other reviewers have made very valid points. The book could have used a little more clear intentionality in moving between topics and examples. It was very much written to be accessible and not a difficult read, and in some places that priority made it come across as less well researched or hard-hitting than it might have been. I also wish a little more time/attention had been spent on the reality (and its implications) that so many Americans are "mutts" - we don't have a distinct cultural heritage to look to for clues about our gene/food interactions.
All things considered, I definitely recommend this book. It isn't long, or difficult to get through, but it will definitely provide readers with a fresh perspective on the intersection of a variety of fascinating fields and provide some beneficial insight on why specialty diets are almost never going to work for you.
Some of science cited in this book is quite important. First, the author explains how the use of spices is related to food preservation. Specifically, food like meat spoils quicker in tropical areas than temperate areas. Many spices kill microbes that spoil meats, hence early humans in tropical areas learned by trial and error to add spices to their foods to preserve them longer. Second, the author demonstrates the links between diet and environment. For example, diet of fava beans is useless vis-a-vis other types of beans in arid environments. But in a climate full of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, ingesting fava beans changes the blood chemistry to reduce the likelihood of a malarial infection.
The book is written as a combination of personal narrative and scientific text. The author provides examples from his own life of how diet and environment interact with a person's genetic makeup to affect health. The amount of science in the text probably requires a college education to understand, though not a medical degree. The text is smooth-flowing and easy to follow, and overall quite interesting.