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The Way We Eat Now

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‘At no point in history have edible items been so easy to obtain. Humans have always gone out and gathered food, but never before has it been so simple for us to gather anything we want, whenever and wherever we want it, from sachets of squid ink to strawberries in winter.’ Why does it no longer seem odd that we’re able to eat sushi in Italy and Neapolitan pizza ‘At no point in history have edible items been so easy to obtain. Humans have always gone out and gathered food, but never before has it been so simple for us to gather anything we want, whenever and wherever we want it, from sachets of squid ink to strawberries in winter.’ Why does it no longer seem odd that we’re able to eat sushi in Italy and Neapolitan pizza in Dubai?What has happened to the food we eat to make this possible, and how have these blurred boundaries influenced cultural development, as well as national appetites?From bananas and grapes to ultra-processed snacks, we may not spend enough time thinking about the origins of the food we’re eating, or how their ingredients might have altered over time. In The Way We Eat Now, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson examines the current food climate, exploring how we have found ourselves here, and at what potential cost.The Way We Eat Now also introduces us to the countries and communities that are making revolutionary efforts towards improving their populations’ relationship with food, and considers how we too might re-establish a more balanced connection with what, as well as how, we eat.


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‘At no point in history have edible items been so easy to obtain. Humans have always gone out and gathered food, but never before has it been so simple for us to gather anything we want, whenever and wherever we want it, from sachets of squid ink to strawberries in winter.’ Why does it no longer seem odd that we’re able to eat sushi in Italy and Neapolitan pizza ‘At no point in history have edible items been so easy to obtain. Humans have always gone out and gathered food, but never before has it been so simple for us to gather anything we want, whenever and wherever we want it, from sachets of squid ink to strawberries in winter.’ Why does it no longer seem odd that we’re able to eat sushi in Italy and Neapolitan pizza in Dubai?What has happened to the food we eat to make this possible, and how have these blurred boundaries influenced cultural development, as well as national appetites?From bananas and grapes to ultra-processed snacks, we may not spend enough time thinking about the origins of the food we’re eating, or how their ingredients might have altered over time. In The Way We Eat Now, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson examines the current food climate, exploring how we have found ourselves here, and at what potential cost.The Way We Eat Now also introduces us to the countries and communities that are making revolutionary efforts towards improving their populations’ relationship with food, and considers how we too might re-establish a more balanced connection with what, as well as how, we eat.

30 review for The Way We Eat Now

  1. 4 out of 5

    Luca

    The Way We Eat Now by Bee Wilson is an insightful and astonishing book about our present-day eating habits. “The story of modern cooking is not a simple tale of decline but a more complex and hopeful one. When we say that ‘no one cooks any more’ we often have in mind a particular version of home cooking that depended on women being confined to a life of unpaid labour. By contrast, the new cooking of our times is done by a wider range of people in a wider range of ways.”(284) When I was The Way We Eat Now by Bee Wilson is an insightful and astonishing book about our present-day eating habits. “The story of modern cooking is not a simple tale of decline but a more complex and hopeful one. When we say that ‘no one cooks any more’ we often have in mind a particular version of home cooking that depended on women being confined to a life of unpaid labour. By contrast, the new cooking of our times is done by a wider range of people in a wider range of ways.”(284) When I was about two chapters into this book I felt that it was not really addressing something new. I love cooking and estimate that I have a fairly reasonable talent for making sensible choices when it concerns food. Meat is off the limits for me, and I feel that I approach food-related trends with a critical, yet fair mindset. So what was this book offering me that I did not already know? Rather a lot, it turned out! Our modern food culture is based on so many interrelated elements. There will always be elements that you probably would never have considered to be relevant, which turn out to be crucial. From the plates, we put our food on, to initiatives from various countries aimed at improving our diet, Bee Wilson achieved to discuss a great number of important aspects. The book reads a little bit like a collection of separate essays, so you can easily put it down if you feel a little bit overwhelmed. Actually, I think that would even be a good thing because the points that Wilson brings up deserve some thought. She continuously managed to surprise me by related topics, that I was familiar with (tasty videos, meal replacement shakes, and cooking because you enjoy cooking), but would have never thought of as relevant. Now, what is great about The Way We Eat Now is that Wilson never gets judgmental. She never fails to highlight the positive aspects of modern food culture. Especially her section on the phenomenon that we now have a generation that has learned to cook from a screen rather than learning from family members really spoke to me. Change is not always a bad thing. But the one lesson we can derive from this is that we have to be mindful and critical about how change will affect people, our diet, and our planet. After reading The Way We Eat Now it is clear to me that I am not going to change the way how we treat our food by myself, and neither are you. But together we can become more aware of our habits, and eventually push for a more sustainable kind of progress when it comes to improving the way we eat. My rating for this book is 4 out of 5 stars. I received a digital copy of this book for free through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Max

    One of the best books about food and eating I've read. The Way We Eat Now describes our relationship with food in detail, but not in a preachy kind of way. This book is very informative, I've learned a lot of new things about food. The writing style is accessible for a lot of people, and it's easy to read even though you're not very knowledgeable of the topics discussed. I think this is an important book and I hope many people pick it up. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a One of the best books about food and eating I've read. The Way We Eat Now describes our relationship with food in detail, but not in a preachy kind of way. This book is very informative, I've learned a lot of new things about food. The writing style is accessible for a lot of people, and it's easy to read even though you're not very knowledgeable of the topics discussed. I think this is an important book and I hope many people pick it up. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC to read. Opinions are my own!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    A nice survey of the State of Food in the world. Most of the news is bad, of course, and always will be with Big Food (read: corporations) in charge. Monoculture has crept in, erasing many of the lines separating various food cultures, and monoculture is laced with sugar and processed oils and flashy marketing and cheap, genetically-modified wheat and soy and so forth. Bottom line: In some ways we have way, way more choices than our grandparents did, food-wise, but in other ways they A nice survey of the State of Food in the world. Most of the news is bad, of course, and always will be with Big Food (read: corporations) in charge. Monoculture has crept in, erasing many of the lines separating various food cultures, and monoculture is laced with sugar and processed oils and flashy marketing and cheap, genetically-modified wheat and soy and so forth. Bottom line: In some ways we have way, way more choices than our grandparents did, food-wise, but in other ways they ate healthier than we do because they didn't have to deal with pesticides, food additives, reindeer games of science and genes, and produce that is puffed up to last as long as possible due to its distant travels. Socio-economics play into the scene, too, of course. It's not by accident that the healthiest foods (e.g. fresh produce) cost more than highly-processed foods. If you're worried about stretching your dollar, you're likely obese. What makes sense economically makes no sense medically. Just about everything you can think of is in here: meals in boxes, the snack bar craze, powdered protein smoothies, marketing to children (with dire results), diseases, detox crazes, diets, food fads, food corruption (where what you think is in the bottle is not in the bottle), the effects of plastic packaging, governmental oversight (Chile wins!) and lack thereof (hello, USA!). Overall, filling and satisfying, though you may wish that some of the many categories went into greater depth, depending on your particular interests.

  4. 4 out of 5

    TS Chan

    Review copy received from the publisher, HarperCollins, in exchange for an honest review. Informative and insightful, The Way We Eat Now should be read by pretty much anyone who wants to take charge of their eating norms, or habits. This was an easy and interesting read which did not come across as being preachy and judgmental. I really think all of us can do with having a bit more awareness of the food we consume, the rapid and oftentimes adverse changes wrought by the huge (processed) food indus Review copy received from the publisher, HarperCollins, in exchange for an honest review. Informative and insightful, The Way We Eat Now should be read by pretty much anyone who wants to take charge of their eating norms, or habits. This was an easy and interesting read which did not come across as being preachy and judgmental. I really think all of us can do with having a bit more awareness of the food we consume, the rapid and oftentimes adverse changes wrought by the huge (processed) food industry, and the impact of the rise of superfoods (think quinoa and avocado) on the environment and the people who produced them. There are some topics in here which I found truly enlightening - such as the Cavendish bananas and 'thin-fat babies' of India. I do consider myself to be fairly well-informed about food, having been through various diets and fads, which included reading relevant books or materials, in the past twenty years or so. There had been a lot of trial and error before I came to the point of not thinking of the word 'diet' as a bad thing, but as a conscious and willing choice of how I feed my body and mind. Armed with all that I've experienced, I think The Way We Eat Now offers adequately well-researched information to assist us in making that choice. The long list of references in the Bibliography at the end of the book indicated as much, and is of great help for those who want to delve deeper into a topic of interest. Recommended reading, simply because we all owe it to ourselves to have more awareness about food and what we eat, even if we are not going to drastically change our habits.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Bee Wilson has a way with words and manages here to get across an important concept that is not earth shattering to anyone involved in public health but is diametrically opposed to what one hears all the time about obesity: namely that weight is simply a question of individual willpower to eat less and move more. Wilson illustrates how absurd that is in the context of massive global forces affecting what we eat. In terms of what to do, she points to some international stories of success or promi Bee Wilson has a way with words and manages here to get across an important concept that is not earth shattering to anyone involved in public health but is diametrically opposed to what one hears all the time about obesity: namely that weight is simply a question of individual willpower to eat less and move more. Wilson illustrates how absurd that is in the context of massive global forces affecting what we eat. In terms of what to do, she points to some international stories of success or promise: South Korea, Chile, Denmark, Amsterdam, illustrating how effective solutions to the obesity epidemic need to be multifaceted, big picture, long-term.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)

    My response to this analysis of contemporary diet and food culture was...underwhelming, but to some extent that’s due to my familiarity with many of the studies and trends that Bee Wilson covers. If you’re at all interested in these issues it’s likely you’ve heard it all before.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ren

    More like 2.5. This feels scoldy, even when I agree with many of her points (but not all...what's with this war on snacks?!) There's a lot of repetition and a bit too much opinion - in a long polemic against bananas in their typical form today (the Cavendish), the author mentions six or seven times how flavorless or bland or bad tasting they are. It's weird. If you don't like bananas, don't buy or eat them. But she does. She just also complains that they're not delicious. I get where More like 2.5. This feels scoldy, even when I agree with many of her points (but not all...what's with this war on snacks?!) There's a lot of repetition and a bit too much opinion - in a long polemic against bananas in their typical form today (the Cavendish), the author mentions six or seven times how flavorless or bland or bad tasting they are. It's weird. If you don't like bananas, don't buy or eat them. But she does. She just also complains that they're not delicious. I get where it's all coming from - people are overweight and unhealthy and what we eat is killing us, but there's also some talking out of both sides of the mouth here - we have so many options and international cuisines to pick and choose from nearly everywhere, but we have too much choice and that's bad; squash being bred to be smaller and more flavor-dense instead of watery = good, grapes bred to not have seeds or be sour = bad? Also an epilogue that tells us to buy smaller, old-timey dishes feels useless. But it does have some useful and just interesting information, especially about historic diets and changes, and a good but very basic rundown about why clean eating, superfoods, and other food trends are bogus.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    A wonderful book! Anyone who is concerned about wellness, weight gain, or the environment needs to read this book. Bee Wilson has done a marvelous and comprehensive study of the vast changes in how we eat during the last thirty or so years. She covers it all - grocery stores, vegetable vs. meat consumption, advertising and marketing of food, the new boxed meal kits, and why all these changes took place in the years after WWII. An excellent book, strongly and highly recommended. The author is a t A wonderful book! Anyone who is concerned about wellness, weight gain, or the environment needs to read this book. Bee Wilson has done a marvelous and comprehensive study of the vast changes in how we eat during the last thirty or so years. She covers it all - grocery stores, vegetable vs. meat consumption, advertising and marketing of food, the new boxed meal kits, and why all these changes took place in the years after WWII. An excellent book, strongly and highly recommended. The author is a terrific storyteller, so this book is both informative and a great read. I truly enjoyed it, and it will change how I eat from now on.

  9. 4 out of 5

    GONZA

    This is not a recipes book or a diet one, is an interesting survey on what we eat now, and why and mostly it explains why in less than 100 years our eating habits changed so much. I really appreciate the way the author handles the researches and the results without saying what should be better and why, I mean she does it also, but she doesn't do that hiding between the results that she chose to put forward her theory, which is something that usually happens whenever we read about food and all th This is not a recipes book or a diet one, is an interesting survey on what we eat now, and why and mostly it explains why in less than 100 years our eating habits changed so much. I really appreciate the way the author handles the researches and the results without saying what should be better and why, I mean she does it also, but she doesn't do that hiding between the results that she chose to put forward her theory, which is something that usually happens whenever we read about food and all the things that we are not supposed to eat, but still we do. All in all, a very special book about food. Questo non é né un libro di ricette, nè una nuova dieta, é un'osservazione piena di ricerche e studi sull'attuale stato della nutrizione in tutte le parti del mondo e di come le nostre abitudini alimentari siano cambiate in meno di 1oo anni. Quello che ho apprezzato particolarmente dell'autrice, é stato il suo modo di illustrare tutte le ricerche e non solo quelle che lei ritenevano fossero piú utili a portare avanti il suo punto di vista, o un tipo di alimentazione rispetto ad un'altra, e questo non capita di solito in questo tipo di libri, dove gli autori sono soliti portare l'acqua al loro mulino ignorando risultati che non confermano le loro teorie rispetto a cosa sia il caso di mangiare e cosa sia meglio evitare. Tutto sommato un ottimo libro sul cibo. THANKS NETGALLEY FOR THE PREVIEW!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Debbi

    If you love food writing and are interested in global food issues much of this information will be familiar. I am sure Bee Wilson could teach a great food history class, she is knowledgeable and invested in her subject, but unfortunately on occasion had to pinch myself to stay awake.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is a fantastic book that should be used to teach everyone the problem food manufacturing has on health and environment. To the reviewers who think the author is too judgmental - suck it up. Her facts are supported by the evidence she provides. She thoroughly outlines the paradox of a world with people eating so much more yet are so much less healthy for it. The quantity of salt, sugar, and fat in nonfoods marketed as food is killing people. She ends the book on a hopeful note with examples This is a fantastic book that should be used to teach everyone the problem food manufacturing has on health and environment. To the reviewers who think the author is too judgmental - suck it up. Her facts are supported by the evidence she provides. She thoroughly outlines the paradox of a world with people eating so much more yet are so much less healthy for it. The quantity of salt, sugar, and fat in nonfoods marketed as food is killing people. She ends the book on a hopeful note with examples of how several communities, including Amsterdam, Chile, and even England have reversed the trends and have substituted real food for manufactured crap. It requires the government to step in with policies that will protect health and environment. I’m ashamed to live in a country that just will not do this. Corporate profits are prioritized over health and environment and the corporations have even brainwashed their customers into thinking it’s their right to eat crap. I especially like the author’s philosophy that it is unfair to blame people for obesity and the health effects it causes. People don’t always have access to healthy food, junk costs less, and false claims by the industry misinforms them into not realizing they aren’t getting nutrients from the junk pushed on them.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Philippa

    An insightful and engrossing read for anyone interested in food, food culture and the sustainability of how it is produced and consumed. Bee Wilson has thoroughly researched this subject and some of the points she makes are quite jaw-dropping. We are now a very time-poor (or lazy) society that prioritises ease instant gratification and choice over sustainability and long-term health and prosperity and this has made us, despite living in an era of great abundance (which is not, as the book also g An insightful and engrossing read for anyone interested in food, food culture and the sustainability of how it is produced and consumed. Bee Wilson has thoroughly researched this subject and some of the points she makes are quite jaw-dropping. We are now a very time-poor (or lazy) society that prioritises ease instant gratification and choice over sustainability and long-term health and prosperity and this has made us, despite living in an era of great abundance (which is not, as the book also goes into detail about, sustainable), very unhealthy. It makes me more determined than ever to stay away from the drive-thru (though Bee writes very compassionately about why this is such a compelling choice for so many people) and eat seasonally, locally and consciously. I know it's the most obvious pun but this is a book that will give you much food for thought!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emanuel

    There's an excerpt at the back cover that reads "this book should be required reading for everyone." I couldn't agree more. Such a thought-provoking book that deals with a universal act played out every single minute somewhere in the world, and yet not many of us realise the forces behind it. The Way We Eat Now highlights some key moments in the food transition with plenty of examples and research and backed by scientific evidence without ever sounding formal or academic of even preach-y. If you There's an excerpt at the back cover that reads "this book should be required reading for everyone." I couldn't agree more. Such a thought-provoking book that deals with a universal act played out every single minute somewhere in the world, and yet not many of us realise the forces behind it. The Way We Eat Now highlights some key moments in the food transition with plenty of examples and research and backed by scientific evidence without ever sounding formal or academic of even preach-y. If you're remotely interested in what goes on your plate, why or what you eat the way you do or simply want to get a very interesting insight in the food/diet/nutrition movement, I'd highly recommend picking this up.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This has been enlightening. I've audibly exclaimed a few times and forced Richard to stop what he's reading/doing and listen while I read bits to him. There is a great final chapter with tips for change in it as well. As a result of reading this I've had my first try at making my own granola - then I have one meal that I can know exactly what has gone into it. I'm fortunate enough to live in a city full of good food options and variety so making some changes is possible quite easily. I recognise This has been enlightening. I've audibly exclaimed a few times and forced Richard to stop what he's reading/doing and listen while I read bits to him. There is a great final chapter with tips for change in it as well. As a result of reading this I've had my first try at making my own granola - then I have one meal that I can know exactly what has gone into it. I'm fortunate enough to live in a city full of good food options and variety so making some changes is possible quite easily. I recognise others are not that easily served.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jill Blevins

    The food information book you’ve been waiting to read. Bee Wilson is such a brilliant writer that she makes nutrition research compelling. She weaves stories and research together with her beautiful, fast-paced and positive writing style in such an enjoyable way. It’s the best book of hers, as judged by the amount of times I’ve quoted it to my family and friends. Now everybody I know knows more than they ever asked about Chinese snack habits (none before 2004 and too much after 2005 when big cor The food information book you’ve been waiting to read. Bee Wilson is such a brilliant writer that she makes nutrition research compelling. She weaves stories and research together with her beautiful, fast-paced and positive writing style in such an enjoyable way. It’s the best book of hers, as judged by the amount of times I’ve quoted it to my family and friends. Now everybody I know knows more than they ever asked about Chinese snack habits (none before 2004 and too much after 2005 when big corporations created addicting products marketed to kids). I think I’ll read it again, just to have fun stories to discuss during the holidays with my food-obsessed family members.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Strauch

    Bee Wilson objectively but cunningly addresses all the food-related subjects I have gotten preachy about over the last 5 years. Why are we eating so many protein bars? Why must it be so hard to invite people to dinner anymore? Is it truly healthy to view food as medicine? Would it be so bad if the only place you could eat a Neapolitan pizza was in Naples? Why do I feel bad taking a lunch hour? And for the love of god, stop calling it "clean eating." We are armed with perhaps too much information Bee Wilson objectively but cunningly addresses all the food-related subjects I have gotten preachy about over the last 5 years. Why are we eating so many protein bars? Why must it be so hard to invite people to dinner anymore? Is it truly healthy to view food as medicine? Would it be so bad if the only place you could eat a Neapolitan pizza was in Naples? Why do I feel bad taking a lunch hour? And for the love of god, stop calling it "clean eating." We are armed with perhaps too much information and given so many options and in many ways we're all still stumbling over (and over-thinking) our food choices, but I appreciated Wilson's case for optimism that we are primed to enter the next stage of food, one in which our economy and lawmakers can support measures to ensure more people eat and desire the best food for our bodies, and that health is not only derived from the nutrients in our food, but also from our genuine enjoyment of it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Emily Moon

    This is one of the best and most engaging works I non-fiction I have read. It doesn’t leave the reader with a particularly positive perception of our food culture but it makes you reassess everything that we take for granted and consider to be normal. It makes you want to be a better consumer and want to make changes that helps to tackle the major issues of our food economy. It is clear that we have an uphill battle ahead of us but getting this book into widespread readership is a pretty good pl This is one of the best and most engaging works I non-fiction I have read. It doesn’t leave the reader with a particularly positive perception of our food culture but it makes you reassess everything that we take for granted and consider to be normal. It makes you want to be a better consumer and want to make changes that helps to tackle the major issues of our food economy. It is clear that we have an uphill battle ahead of us but getting this book into widespread readership is a pretty good place to start.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mythili

    A thoughtful, conversational, well-researched equal-opportunity general-interest book about a wide range of modern food trends and what they mean for our physical and psychological well-being. The “strategies” part is a bit of a misnomer—this isn’t a diet book (but maybe it’s easier to sell diet books than books of culinary cultural commentary?); apart from a few pages of common-sense guidance in the epilogue, there’s no particular advice or “plan” she suggests. Even though a lot of what she wri A thoughtful, conversational, well-researched equal-opportunity general-interest book about a wide range of modern food trends and what they mean for our physical and psychological well-being. The “strategies” part is a bit of a misnomer—this isn’t a diet book (but maybe it’s easier to sell diet books than books of culinary cultural commentary?); apart from a few pages of common-sense guidance in the epilogue, there’s no particular advice or “plan” she suggests. Even though a lot of what she writes will be familiar already to say, anyone who reads the occasional news article about nutrition and food sales, Wilson has a nice way of weaving things together and telling a story about what our food choices/desires/habits say about modern life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dilia Narduzzi

    Required reading for everyone who eats food!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    I think Wilson does a fantastic job of being conversational and understandable but still being knowledgeable and citing her sources. It’s a hard balance to strike sometimes. I think she does a particularly good job of showing that obesity isn’t the willpower problem that society often tries to pass it off as. It’s so many other things in your environment that influence your food options and choices.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    Interesting information, a little preachy at times

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brian Hagerty

    I picked this up after reading an Atlantic article discussing it and a few related titles. I was disappointed, mostly because Wilson's comments about how we should eat are uninformed. This book is really just an extended opinion piece rather than an evidence-based assessment of what is wrong with our food system and our diets. To be fair, Wilson isn't a nutritionist and doesn't pretend to be, and her goal is to make sweeping statements about the global food system. And she does helpfully point out the p I picked this up after reading an Atlantic article discussing it and a few related titles. I was disappointed, mostly because Wilson's comments about how we should eat are uninformed. This book is really just an extended opinion piece rather than an evidence-based assessment of what is wrong with our food system and our diets. To be fair, Wilson isn't a nutritionist and doesn't pretend to be, and her goal is to make sweeping statements about the global food system. And she does helpfully point out the perniciousness of the spread of processed foods and oils.But she makes a lot of wrongheaded statements. Though some are couched as opinions, they still come across as if they are based on evidence (though they are not). For instance, she says (p. 214):To me, eating more vegetarian meals—but not exclusively so—feels like a pragmatic path through the jungle of modern food options. . . . 'Only buy the best meat you can afford, grass-fed for preference,' say a host of experts on ethical eating. [No source cited!] . . . For me, the best compromise has been to make meat a smaller element than it used to be in my family's eating without eliminating it altogether.First, a lot of experts on "ethical eating" would say eating animals is unethical. And setting ethics aside, meat is unhealthy, period. Read How Not to Die by Michael Greger or Dean Ornish's work or the work of Neal Barnard and the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine and you will realize that the best science shows that meat, dairy, and eggs promote a host of illnesses and have no dietary upside. So reducing meat is better than not doing so—but eliminating it is even better. Wilson, however, implies that eating some meat is somehow preferable to being vegan, and that is simply not true.To take another example, in the epilogue where she does actually give diet advice, she says (pp. 300-01):For most of us, a less meat or less sugar diet is easier to achieve than one without any meat or sugar at all. . . . What does a healthy pattern of eating look like? Many nutritionists advocate the Mediterranean diet, consisting of olive oil, fish, nuts, vegetables, legumes, and fruits. Others prefer the newer concept of a Nordic diet, a sustainable way of eating rich in berries and dark grains such as rye, barley, and oats; rapeseed oil; and oily fish such as herring and salmon. But those of us who live neither in the Mediterranean nor [in] Scandinavia may have to invent our own patterns of eating. Fumiaki Imamura told me that since moving to the United States and Britain from Japan, he had asked many people what a healthy local diet looked like 'and no one has been able to answer me.' The fact that no one can yet identify a healthy American diet is worrying, but you could also see it as an opportunity. The future of our diets is a blank slate on which we are free to write our own rules.This is really a pernicious and wrongheaded message. First, so what if it's "easier" to reduce meat and sugar than to eliminate it? No kidding! It's also easier to eat fast food than to cook a meal. I don't need a journalist to tell me it's easier to do the unhealthy thing than the healthy thing. More important, Wilson should not be perpetuating the myth that nutrition is some confusing, trackless wilderness that we must get through based on our intuition. It is simply not true that "no one can yet identify a healthy American diet." And of course, diets are a "blank slate" only if you don't care what science tells us about what we should be eating. Science tells us to eat a whole-food plant-based diet, with minimal (or no) refined oils and sugar. Science does not tell us that we should be eating oil or fish. Again, the work of Neal Barnard and the Physician's Committee on Responsible Medicine is helpful here, and he has a great short video explaining that a vegan diet is healthier than the Mediterranean diet.In short, though some aspects of this book are useful, much of the information in it is just intuition, sentiment, and guesswork, and some of it is flat wrong. I think the wrong information outweighs what is useful, and I do not recommend it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    John

    A lot of valuable insights, but nothing new if you have read books on this topic before. The epilogue: 1. Eat new food on old plates, 2.Don't drink anything that is "like water" unless it is water, 3.Devote less attention to snacks and more to meals, 4. Change your appetites (learn to appreciate new foods, not just high sugar+fat+salt processed foods), 5. Shift the balance (i.e. don't aim for extreme exculsions, but gentle shifts), 6. Try to eat in ratios, not A lot of valuable insights, but nothing new if you have read books on this topic before. The epilogue: 1. Eat new food on old plates, 2.Don't drink anything that is "like water" unless it is water, 3.Devote less attention to snacks and more to meals, 4. Change your appetites (learn to appreciate new foods, not just high sugar+fat+salt processed foods), 5. Shift the balance (i.e. don't aim for extreme exculsions, but gentle shifts), 6. Try to eat in ratios, not in absolutes, 7. Eat proteins and vegetables first, and carbohydrates last, 8. Vary what you eat, 9. Find time for food, 10. Learn to cook the foods that you want yourself to eat, 11. Know what you are eating, 12. Use your senses.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Bee Wilson is an author of several other why/how we eat books. Here, she systematically documents the global trends that have shaped how we eat, from the not so good (too much ultra processed food with resulting obesity and related ill-health) and some good (reclaiming a love of cooking, expansion of availability of local foods). I was surprised about the lists of countries with the healthiest diet patterns. I enjoyed the discussion how the timing of eating in different groups affects their over Bee Wilson is an author of several other why/how we eat books. Here, she systematically documents the global trends that have shaped how we eat, from the not so good (too much ultra processed food with resulting obesity and related ill-health) and some good (reclaiming a love of cooking, expansion of availability of local foods). I was surprised about the lists of countries with the healthiest diet patterns. I enjoyed the discussion how the timing of eating in different groups affects their overall diet.

  25. 5 out of 5

    ashley c

    Bee Wilson writes about our decisions around food, the food industry, and consumerism in The Way We Eat Now. Wilson talks to consumers, experts, businesses, and discusses the research, history, and philosophy behind phenomenons that are hot topics nowadays: health, dieting, eating disorders, cooking, quality of food, and more. I found her book to be an enjoyable read but underdeveloped on many fronts, which is a shame. As this is my first foray into reading about food, I read a bunch of o Bee Wilson writes about our decisions around food, the food industry, and consumerism in The Way We Eat Now. Wilson talks to consumers, experts, businesses, and discusses the research, history, and philosophy behind phenomenons that are hot topics nowadays: health, dieting, eating disorders, cooking, quality of food, and more. I found her book to be an enjoyable read but underdeveloped on many fronts, which is a shame. As this is my first foray into reading about food, I read a bunch of other goodreads reviews to get a sense of the community's opinion on where she stands in the food writing genre. It looks to me like she's trying to marry writing about food with writing about issues around food, which is more difficult than it sounds. I can see her bare attempts at trying to celebrate food and a variety of ways of eating and cultures around eating, but having to balance that with honest criticism about issues such as the environmental impact of over-consumption, the meat industry, health issues around eating out, and so on. If done well, this can make the discussion very insightful. However, this requires skill and tact which Wilson did not always show. It actually makes a very confusing book because she sounds inconsistent. Her thoughts on vegetarianism are all over the place. She talked about loving how Indian food makes vegetarian food a delicious norm, and laments how this isn't the same in Europe, and then eventually concludes that our current meat eating habits are exploitative, extravagant, and unsustainable, but then go on to decry Western vegetarianism and veganism as a fad and concludes that 'flexitarianism' seems more doable. This shows to me the conflict between celebrating food and talking about social issues - it is rarely said in the same breath when it comes to meat as food. So a worthy attempt - but I think it fell short. This results in two types of unhappy readers - readers who come to read about food feel scolded for their decisions around food. Readers who come for more critical commentary don't get much. On the issue of social commentary, I am personally disappointed at her deft skipping over gender roles and its social impact when it comes to the global decrease in hours spent (her words) cooking at home. She cited research that said that the average worker now works 1000 hours less a year now than in 1900, which meant that we have a lot more time to cook. Does this 'average worker' also include housewives, and other unpaid caregivers, such as children (especially girls) who often also help out around the kitchen? She did eventually bring up the issue a few chapters later of how home cooking was traditionally an unpaid and unappreciated role fostered onto women with no choice, and while the rise of feminism did meant that people ate food that was of lesser quality now, it also meant that, um, women have rights. I felt that this showed bad editing - I think with some rewording and rewriting of a few sentences, it could have been said in a way which made more impact and relevance to the issue of home cooking vs eating out which she was very passionate about, but instead felt like it was added in reluctantly, as though women's rights were secondary to the issue of having fresh hot homecooked food on your table. I'm sure that wasn't Wilson's intention, but like I said, editing makes a difference. She also uses a lot of personal anecdotes to support her points - either hers or that or her interviewees. She talked about preserving eating as a social activity, and laments - condescending, I might add - how she noticed millennials seem to like pictures of food more than food itself with their 'hashtags' and their 'instagram'. I also have a personal anecdote to support my counterpoint. I take pictures of food eaten or made with family and friends and post them on instagram to look back and be reminded of the joyful memory of eating and cooking with loved ones. But nevermind that - my point is her personal anecdotes add little to the value of her book. I felt that she could also have done more for readers to feel more confident in the research she was citing. There were references to many outdated research papers. It was also unclear if extraneous variables were accounted for in these papers. For example, Wilson wanted to show the difference between eating the Japanese way and eating the American way - suppose the former was correlated with better health indicators. The research compared eating habits of two types of Japanese men in America - one group was less assimilated with American culture than the other. The research found that the assimilated group had significantly worse health indicators. My question is - did the research account for variables such as stress -perhaps the assimilated group faced more racism in their community or pressure trying to fit in? And I'm sure any researcher could think of others. The whole book was propped up by such research, which really did not make me more convinced of the points she was making. That said, one concept I appreciated her making accessible to readers is the concept of choice around eating and health. It's a persistent myth that poor people making bad eating choices and people with obesity again, make bad eating choices. “We speak of having better food choices, but for the most part, we eat the foods that food companies want to sell us.” Wilson took the chance to write some very strong chapters on the food industry and how we were not given the right options to make choices from. She brought into light how poverty and inequality affects the options afforded to us - when fast food and frozen food is cheaper than fresh vegetables in terms of how many calories you can buy with a certain amount of money, when sugary unhealthy snacks are the only source of comfort and entertainment money can buy for a family in poverty, when fast food companies run targeted ads on TV to poor children knowingly, it is no wonder how poverty is correlated with poor health. “As things stand, our culture is far too critical of the individuals who eat junk foods and not critical enough about the corporations that profit from selling them. We spend a lot of time discussing unhealthy foods in terms of individual guilt and willpower and not enough looking at the morality of big food companies that have targeted some of the poorest consumers in the world with products that will make them sick, or the governments that allowed them to do so.” She is also passionate about overconsumption of bad food - overconsumption is unsustainable for the environment and unnecessary for us - especially when most of the options that was made appealing to us are oversized portions of sugar and processed foods. My favourite takeaway from this is a proposed new food classification system NOVA and how to use it in your daily life - Group 1 being unprocessed/minimally processed foods, Group 2 bring processed culinary ingredients, Group 3 being processed foods, and Group 4 being ultra-processed food and drink products. The link includes a recommendation on how much of each group of foods to include in your diet. Even the name for the last one is food for thought. Overall, an enjoyable read, bunch of good points made but jarred with inconsistent commentary and unconvincing research.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Enja

    This is a difficult book for me to review. I read Wilsons previous book about eating some years ago and found it an interesting read, so I decided I would give this one a try and I enjoyed it. The author has a way of making a non-fiction book about food an interesting and entertaining read. Generally Im very interested in food and eating. I definitely describe myself as a foodie and like learning about food, ingredients, nutrition and I enjoy cooking, so a lot of the ground covered in the book i This is a difficult book for me to review. I read Wilson´s previous book about eating some years ago and found it an interesting read, so I decided I would give this one a try and I enjoyed it. The author has a way of making a non-fiction book about food an interesting and entertaining read. Generally I´m very interested in food and eating. I definitely describe myself as a foodie and like learning about food, ingredients, nutrition and I enjoy cooking, so a lot of the ground covered in the book is familiar to me. However, a few of the topics were new to me. While I was aware of supermarket bread having little nutritional value, I had no idea that there was a very different type of quality control for bread in the past, I thought that was super interesting. I know that ancient grains have gained in popularity recently and I know of several bakeries in Germany that returning to quality bread. Interestingly, these bakeries are incredibly popular and always full/sold out despite the higher prices compared to other breads etc. (which obviously leads to the question of accessibility for people who can´t afford anything other than cheap, low-quality supermarket toast). I also agree with Wilson that there isn´t enough education related to food and healthy eating in schools. Hearing about the Lincolnshire primary school that grows food and teaches cooking gave me hope, I would love for my children to go to there (although I am fairly certain my children will do just fine without it too because to me it´s such an important part of life, family life in particular). Some things surprised me, for example the research that shows: the bigger the supermarket, the greater the prevalence of obesity among its regular shoppers! This one really got me thinking. I´m not sure I fully understand the correlation. Yes, my shopping in large supermarkets tends to be bigger than when I shop in smaller shops, but I usually visit the bigger supermarkets when planning a big shop anyway so that´s no surprise. I also buy larger amounts of fruit and vegetables in bigger supermarkets and those aisles are usually where I get carried away, buying things I didn´t plan to buy, much more so than in the sweets or snack aisles. But I guess that might be a personal thing. I also wasn´t aware that where quinoa used to be a cheap staple, people are no longer able to afford it because it is shipped and sold overseas. This is awful and clearly one of the biggest downsides of globalisation. I recently found a company who grows and sells British quinoa and many other seeds, pulses and grains and I wish more places would sell it. It took me months to find them and I think more people would buy them if they had the opportunity. Instead, all large supermarkets and even many small independent shops ship them in. I know there is a price difference and I appreciate that not everyone will be able to buy the more expensive local product but I know many people will, decreasing the demand for products grown elsewhere (and supporting local businesses at the same time). At some point Wilson says that food eaten out is mostly less nutritious than food cooked at home but I´m not sure I agree with her statement. I´m sure this is true in some cases but I also think it assumes that those people eating out know how to cook. If a family eats oven chips and breaded chicken nuggets (or whatever other beige food can be put in the oven), I´m pretty sure that, other than fast food joints obviously, meals eaten out might have a higher nutritional value. What I didn´t like about the book was the emphasis on eating meat (albeit little) and fish to have a healthy diet. Wilson completely neglects the large amount of research that shows that a vegan/plant based diet, if well planned, is considered to be the most supportive in fighting the nations´ food related health issues. She addresses issues such as obesity, cardio-vascular disease and diabetes but completely ignores the work of various physicians who have been successful in reversing heart diseases and diabetes through a plant based, whole foods diet. Other than that, I completely agree with Wilson on the influence that corporations have on what we eat, which is one of the reason I try to eat and cook mostly whole foods and don´t buy into the whole "eggs and dairy are important sources of nutrients" argument that stems from research funded by the egg & dairy industry. I think she´s right in highlighting that bad diet is often blamed on the individual and while, to some extent, I think this can be the case and people should take responsibility for their own diet, I completely agree that the system is making it incredibly hard for people to do so. In many countries there is money to be made from people who rely on medicine and surgeries and in others it is simply cheaper to buy a burger than a salad and coke instead of water. Additionally, in a world where people are struggling to make ends meet, despite working horrendous hours, there is so much going on that individuals have neither capacity, nor energy to think much about food and cooking. So all in all I think this is a great book for anyone who is interested in food and food systems. I won't give it more than 3 stars simply because I think times are changing and she should have focused on the recent rise in veganism and its benefits, especially considering the topic of food related ill health and the fact that she spoke about ethical food choices. Maybe she will in her next book?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jan Peregrine

    Bee Wilson's 2019 book The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Changed Our Lives, Our Bodies and Our World explores how diets around the world have been dominated by the food industry's primary goal of providing quantity of food over quality. She points out that this has devalued the nutrition value of food while promoting the entertainment value of food. Wilson talked with scores of growers, chefs, scientists, and food distributors and industry people, making this book her mo Bee Wilson's 2019 book The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Changed Our Lives, Our Bodies and Our World explores how diets around the world have been dominated by the food industry's primary goal of providing quantity of food over quality. She points out that this has devalued the nutrition value of food while promoting the entertainment value of food. Wilson talked with scores of growers, chefs, scientists, and food distributors and industry people, making this book her most ambitious. If we pick up on nothing else of her message, we will at least understand how quickly food trends appear and usually disappear. The passion for one hundred percent pomegranate juice died away when people realized the pricey juice couldn't be pure, but mixed with cheap juices. Quinoa is still selling strong and coconut water, but I suspect her love of skyr, a popular yogurt from Iceland, will fade before long. I've never heard of it in the U.S. What she wants us to realize is that nearly the whole world's diets are in decline in terms of nutrition as we plow through a stage four of the eating habits cycle, which is the stage with a dominance of highly-processed food or junk food and drink. It's the stage of obesity and lots of sickness. Fortunately there are glimmers of some cultures struggling to make it to stage five and healthier eating. South Korea is the most successful country in this effort. Their government helped, as did the city of Amsterdam's government. They changed how their citizens valued their food and healthy eating with lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains, water, and beans/legumes came to be seen as pleasurable, valuable food. Staples returned or continued to be a normal part of the diet. I noted how former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg once tried to reduce the size of sugar drinks to 16 ounces as a way to help reduce obesity, but it was rejected by his nutrition council or something like that. This is actually a great idea. Other places have imposed sugar taxes (Bolivia or Brazil?) and their obesity rates began plunging the first year as food and drink products lowered their sugar/syrup load. Wilson also investigates the pure food craze, the surge of liquid nutrition for busy people with no access to healthy food, the home-cooked meals and chef-planned meals to be home-cooked delivered to your door, vegetarianism, and veganism. No, she didn't try vegan eating, but often goes without meat. Her last point was that more people are dabbler cooks these days. They cook a little as well as go out to eat with or without friends. Cooking is not done the traditional way, but is becoming more creative. Just look at the Instagram pictures of people eating or cooking! It looks hopeful that we'll eventually move on to stage five with some help from government as other nations have done. When we value food as nutrition and not entertainment, we'll be able to.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Synthia Salomon

    Having had my own health revelations, I’m happy that I read this book. I was able to be reminded of how I should continue to be mindful. “Throughout the course of history, the way we eat has changed due to advances in agriculture and civilization. And yet, so much change has happened recently, that the way we eat now is radically different than it was just a few generations ago. These days, many people live busy lives surrounded by an abundance of food, which has resulted in more snacking and di Having had my own health revelations, I’m happy that I read this book. I was able to be reminded of how I should continue to be mindful. “Throughout the course of history, the way we eat has changed due to advances in agriculture and civilization. And yet, so much change has happened recently, that the way we eat now is radically different than it was just a few generations ago. These days, many people live busy lives surrounded by an abundance of food, which has resulted in more snacking and dining out, and fewer sit-down, communal meals. There are also new forms of food, like drinkable meals, and ways of preparing our food, but many of these innovations remain impractical and out-of-reach for poorer families. With the rise of diet-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, we must look to governments and private initiatives to find solutions and help us reach a healthier stage in our food evolution.” Actionable advice that I’ve already implemented by eating my meals from a saucer. “Reduce your portion sizes by using old plates. You may not have noticed, but the size of modern dinner plates is significantly bigger than it was just a few generations ago. In the 1950s, a dinner plate with a 25-centimeter diameter was considered large, while the standard dinner plate today has a diameter of 28 centimeters. So, if you’re looking to cut back on calories, a helpful practice can be to use the older plates that can easily be found at flea markets and garage sales. You’ll not only be serving healthier portion sizes but you’ll also likely improve your food presentation style since older plates often feature beautiful patterns and designs!” Avoid: Vegetable Oil Instant Noodles Research nutrition facts and availability of ingredients like coconuts and pomegranates before taking claims of 100% as truth.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I really wanted to like this book but I think this might be a situation where I’m too invested and knowledgeable about the subject to enjoy this. Most of the stories in this book I had already heard in different food podcasts. The suggestions for how to improve our relationship to food I’ve already integrated into my life, or I don’t think they’re for me. I think the struggle is the dichotomy between the fact that I think Wilson wants to take a strong stance on how people should be ea I really wanted to like this book but I think this might be a situation where I’m too invested and knowledgeable about the subject to enjoy this. Most of the stories in this book I had already heard in different food podcasts. The suggestions for how to improve our relationship to food I’ve already integrated into my life, or I don’t think they’re for me. I think the struggle is the dichotomy between the fact that I think Wilson wants to take a strong stance on how people should be eating and living, but then is also trying to recognize that it’s a very personal issue and people have different values and limitations. It just turns into this strange sort of wistful nostalgia, but then sort of undercuts it with “but people might not have access to these things or share these values”. I don’t disagree with this book or it’s overall message. I just think that we know we’re eating a ton of processed food that’s bad for us, and combat that by chasing crazy food fads we know aren’t going to magically fix that problem. But Reese’s peanut butter cups are delicious. And cutting up the vegetables I get from a local farm each week takes a lot of time, mental energy, and isn’t cheap. So this book just put me back into the constant daily battle of health vs money vs time vs happiness vs values, which there’s no answer to where the balance is between them.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    2.5. Where her first book was adorably nerdy, this one was just preachy. She fixates way too much on Cavendish bananas (which she hates) and Barry Popkin (whom she loves). Book is written somewhere between American English and British English, which was more bothersome than if she'd just picked one or the other (she chose "biscuits and chips" instead of "biscuits and crisps" or "cookies and chips," for example). Also, I'm reading this book soon after it's published, which is good, bec 2.5. Where her first book was adorably nerdy, this one was just preachy. She fixates way too much on Cavendish bananas (which she hates) and Barry Popkin (whom she loves). Book is written somewhere between American English and British English, which was more bothersome than if she'd just picked one or the other (she chose "biscuits and chips" instead of "biscuits and crisps" or "cookies and chips," for example). Also, I'm reading this book soon after it's published, which is good, because I don't think it will age well. It's very current and in 10-15 years might seem funny. Or maybe her ideas/suggestions about next-stage nutrition (rediscovering the joys of vegetables and nutritious food) will come to fruition. There are no recipes in this book. I did not expect any but it's possible that some readers might think there are, and they'd be disappointed. It feels like she's trying to shame her readers for wastefulness, for bad nutritional decisions, for relying too heavily on boring foods (Cavendish banana, anyone?), for eating too many and too unvaried calories, and for blaming obesity on the obese. More than anything else, this made the book seem repetitive.

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