Books Culture Food

First Bite by Bee Wilson

25 April 2016
First Bite by Bee Wilson

On a recent trip to Paris, my brother Marc lent me First Bite by Bee Wilson, a book he had just finished reading and thought I would enjoy. Although I am a big reader of food blogs, I am not used to reading actual books about food, so this read was a leap of faith! I was quite right to give it a go, as since I have finished the book I have been recommending it to everyone I know!


First Bite: How We Learn to Eat is a non-fiction book about food: how we form our likes and dislikes, cultural eating, emotional eating, food memories, eating disorders and everything in between.

My opinion

First Bite gave me food for thought on the massive topic of eating habits. I hadn’t dedicated so much brain power to a new subject in quite some time!

The author clearly did a lot of research, collecting information from scientists, nutritionists and psychologists as well as ordinary people with interesting food stories to tell. There was one woman who subsisted on plain pasta and white bread, a food critic who lost her sense of taste after an unfortunate accident, and scores of parents trying to get their children to eat (real) food.

I liked the fact that this was not a self-help book. There is a whole chapter (and conclusion) entitled THIS IS NOT ADVICE. I did, however, glean information that could serve in the future as well as my present, notably how to feed a child (fascinating) and how to love foods that are good for you.

First Bite by Bee Wilson

Bee Wilson’s careful explanation of how we learn to love and hate certain foods – and how you can teach yourself to like a food you dislike, with enough patience and good intentions – made me feel like experimenting with the foods I am not a fan of. The only foods I really can’t stomach are fennel, liquorice, and aniseed. Funnily enough, my two brothers don’t like those flavours either. After reading the book, Marc did his own home experiment and is now ok with small amounts of those foods. I just might give it a try myself!

First Bite was a useful and eye-opening read. I learned about Greek immigrants who search for feta cheese upon arriving in America only to be disappointed that the taste does not bring back home. This reminded me of when my mother and I tried to find real cheddar cheese when arriving in Mauritius from England and failed miserably, finding only a weird rubbery-like canned substance the whole island swears by still today! I also enjoyed reading about the sudden increase in obesity rates in China explained in part by the Great Chinese Famine between 1959 and 1961, as well as the fairly recent change in Japanese eating habits that used to rely heavily on plain grains. It was truly fascinating reading about how different cultures relate to food.

I think that First Bite is useful for everyone: after all, we all have to eat, whatever our convictions about food! This book made me think a lot about my own personal food memories and preferences. It was a walk down memory lane, a collection of food stories and a scientific study all rolled into one!

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  • Reply JS 25 April 2016 at 9 h 57 min

    A useful insight into a modern need.

  • Reply MG 25 April 2016 at 8 h 43 min

    Sounds like an interesting read, I suppose the idea of the book is to give readers a healthy outlook regarding food. In your opinion, should this be a must read for all new parents? Would it start a baby off on the right track, or will it only be of use to someone wanting a healthy lifestyle?

    • Reply Nathalie 25 April 2016 at 10 h 01 min

      I think that it is a must-read if you’re trying to go back to the basics and understand where an unhealthy (or healthy) relationship with food comes from. The book takes a good look at picky eating, eating disorders and even force feeding. I do think that it would be interesting for new parents or even parents to be as Bee Wilson talks at length about subjects such as breast milk, first solid meals and formula milk. It is also very useful from an adult perspective as the idea is that you begin eating as a baby and that has a big impact on how you eat as an adult. I think you’d really like it!

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