Nutrition and historical food books

These books about all things gastronomical offer plenty of food for thought


Bee Wilson

, John Murray, £9.99

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Think the food we eat today is adulterated and unsafe to eat? Read this book and be amazed our ancestors ever survived to their next meal. Food cheating and counterfeiting has been around as long as agriculture (and probably longer), and in this book author Bee Wilson picks out some of the more recent and better documented examples to amaze and inform.

Wilson’s food writing is among the best in Britain, as readers of her column ‘The Kitchen Thinker’ in Stella magazine can testify. A former research fellow in the history of ideas at Cambridge University, her intellectual rigour and disciplined research skills prove a great match with her seamless and engaging writing – she manages to bring history alive, and leaves you wanting more.

From lead and arsenic in Victorian sweets to the perils of food scares which can paradoxically change the diet the nation for the worse, Wilson manages to uncover new material, and, more importantly, present it in an entertaining way. She makes many thought-provoking points: that while wine, for example, has become more rigorously policed and better quality over the centuries, the quality of bread has declined to the extent that most supermarket loaves are now more adulterated than bread has ever been. We are still slow, it seems. to learn the lessons of history.

Guy Dimond, Time Out London Issue 1959: March 5-11 2008

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