Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Review: First Bite by Bee Wilson

ISBN: 0465064981
Published: December 1st, 2015
Publisher: Basic Books
Read from September 26th to 29th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
We do not come into the world with an innate sense of taste and nutrition; as omnivores, we have to learn how and what to eat, how sweet is too sweet, and what food will give us the most energy for the coming day. But how does this education happen? What are the origins of taste?
In First Bite, the beloved food writer Bee Wilson draws on the latest research from food psychologists, neuroscientists, and nutritionists to reveal that our food habits are shaped by a whole host of factors: family and culture, memory and gender, hunger and love. An exploration of the extraordinary and surprising origins of our tastes and eating habits—from people who can only eat foods of a certain color to an amnesiac who can eat meal after meal without getting full—First Bite also shows us how we can change our palates to lead healthier, happier lives.


First Bite is all about how people develop their sense of taste. As someone who has always been a picky eater (although I'd like to think I've branched out more now that I'm older), I'm fascinated by how people come to like certain things and not others. It's an exploration of something that is related to nutrition but also isn't like other nutrition books I've read. First Bite isn't really concerned with stressing what's healthy and unhealthy. It's just exploring why people come to eat certain foods and not others. I don't think that's something many people think about, yet it's such an interesting question.

I learned so, so much from this book. It raised so many new questions that I've never stopped to think about. Sure, I'd thought before how different cultures have different tastes, and I knew it had to come from what they were fed growing up. But I didn't think about it beyond that. Wilson explores that in First Bite though, including why some cultures come to tolerate spicy foods easier than others. I'd always assumed that people who like spicy food developed some sort of tolerance where they can't taste the spiciness as much anymore. It turns out that I was wrong, and the real theory about how people come to tolerate spice wasn't what I expected.

First Bite seems to explore so much, from how the diet of the mother affects breast milk and a baby's future diet to why junk food has become such a big component of today's diets. All of it was fascinating and some really great information. I think anyone is bound to learn something from this book, and it really makes you stop and think about how your own diet came about. But it's never preachy about what you should or shouldn't be eating, even if it makes you stop to think about why your favorite foods are your favorite foods.

I'd recommend this book to just about everyone. We all eat, and we've all developed our own unique tastes that have been influenced by a number of factors. This book is a great way to learn more about how that happened and get you thinking about how you wound up eating the diet that you have.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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