Bee Wilson

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Assistant: Eli Keren

Books

Bee Wilson is a food writer and historian. Her books include Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat and, most recently, First Bite: How We Learn to Eat (Fourth Estate), about the psychology of eating and how we can change our diets for the better, which won the Fortnums food book of the year 2016 and Special Commendation at the Andre Simon awards. She writes (on food and other subjects including biography and film) for a wide range of publications including The London Review of BooksThe GuardianThe New York Times and Borough Market Blogs.  In 2016, she won the food writer of the year award from The Guild of Food Writers for articles in The Times Literary Supplement and The Happy Reader. She regularly appears on the radio in both the UK and US and is the Chair of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. She has three children and lives in Cambridge.

SWINDLED was shortlisted for the Andre Simon award as well as for the 14th Guild of Food Writers Awards 2009 in the Food Book of the Year category; Bee Wilson won in the Food Journalist of the Year category.

Current publication:

FIRST BITE: How We Learn to Eat - Fourth Estate - January 2016

We are not born knowing what to eat. We all have to learn it as children sitting expectantly at a table. For our diets to change, we need to relearn the food experiences that first shaped us. Eating is not something we are born knowing how to do. We learn it as children, sitting at the kitchen table, being fed. It is there that we develop our passions and our disgusts, our ideas about which flavours go with what and how big a portion is. Growing up, we define ourselves through our tastes.

FIRST BITE draws on current research from both neuroscience and psychology, and the author's experience parenting three children and visiting numerous school canteens, as well as talking to dieticians, biologists and consumer researchers, to look at where our food habits come from; and what it would really take to change them for the better. The food we consume over the course of a day - a week - a lifetime - depends on countless glancing choices, most of which are based on preference. And these preferences, in turn, are largely formed by the way we first learn to feed ourselves in childhood.

Of all our behaviours, eating is one of the most habitual and repetitive and one of the least susceptible to cognitive reasoning. This book shows that for our diets to change, as well as educating ourselves about nutrition, we need to relearn the food experiences that first shaped us.

 

Praise for FIRST BITE:

‘If there were any justice in the world, this book should be at the top of this month's diet-book bestsellers. But what makes First Bite so readable is Wilson’s candor about her own relationship with food and her valiant but not always successful attempts not to pass on her fads to her three children.. I agree with every word she writes' Daisy Goodwin, The Sunday Times

‘This is an intelligent and provocative book with new things to say about a huge subject. It combines psychology, history and science but the driving narrative is memoir… Everyone will identify with something in First Bite, be it the analysis of why some of us don’t like beetroot … or the distant memories of being ordered to clear your plate be an earlier generation who had grown up in terror of waste… So be brave. Drop the diet. Make peace. If any book can effect long-term weight loss, it should be this one, because it feeds the mind rather than denying the body’ Melanie Reid, The Times

‘Wilson’s book is, at its core, about the pleasure of eating and how we can reconnect with this. Where most books concerned with diet and health concentrate on what we should and shouldn’t eat, Wilson takes us somewhere new. She starts by debunking the idea that taste preferences are innate … First Bite is a feast of a book … Wilson’s focus on how we learn to eat rather than on what we eat is a refreshing new template for improving our relationship with food.’ Polly Russell, FINANCIAL TIMES

First Bite is a brilliant read; a month after finishing it, I still think of it every time I set the table.’ Rachel Cooke, OFM 

‘Wilson writes vividly with a huge range of references as she pursues her quest to understand how we can be persuaded to eat what’s good for us.’ Kate Chisholm, DAILY TELEGRAPH

‘I was won over by Wilson's arguments. Her views are sensible, persuasive and cognisant of human failings. More than anything I've ever read, this book explained to me why I am the shape that I am and how I can do something about it.’ Christopher Hirst, INDEPENDENT

 

Bee Wilson’s First Bite: How We Learn to Eat is a brilliant, heartfelt book about this crisis in our contemporary diet…. First Bite is movingly open about the author’s own complicated relationship with food, and doesn’t make the difficulties of arriving at a sane relationship with it seem less than they are. It is full of recent findings in all areas of food research, from childhood preferences to autism and anorexia, and has lots of riveting incidental detail’ John Lanchester, LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS

"“First Bite” should be read by every young parent, and is a good resource for adults with eating disorders and those with more prosaic problems like waistline drift. There are some very useful ideas within these pages, and none of the usual pseudoscientific bunk that plagues books about diet. Carefully crafted, astutely served, delicious and nourishing: “First Bite” is a real treat." Wall Street Journal

“Bee Wilson’s First Bite is the delicious and nourishing result of her deep research into the problem of proper eating. This important book brings together a library of recent studies on obesity, anorexia, and other pathologies that shorten life and make millions of sugar addicts and serial dieters miserable. She steers deliberately clear of counterproductive hectoring ‘advice,’ while offering instead a broad, food-loving, and philosophical approach for the perplexed omnivore.” Raymond Sokolov, former author of the “Eating Out” column for the Wall Street Journal

“This is a fascinating, at times provocative, investigation into how and why we eat what we do, how food can be both medicine and poison, and a call-to-arms manifesto to make eating guiltlessly pleasurable for all.” Nigella Lawson

“Why do we grow to love certain foods? How do our families and our memories affect our tastes? What can we do to raise children to eat well and wisely? In First Bite, Bee Wilson blends science, history and memoir to offer deep lessons about our relationship with food. This is an important book that is also hugely enjoyable, full of fascinating stories told with warmth and wisdom. An invaluable tool for understanding and overcoming our fraught relationship with food, Bee Wilson's First Bite will change how you eat and how you live.” Dan Jurafsky, author of The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu

"Bee Wilson is the ultimate food scholar. First Bite is a brilliant study of how we form our food preferences and how we may be able to change them. Her narrative kept me hungry for more until the very end." Yotam Ottolenghi, chef and food writer

 “No matter what our age, we hunger for childhood food. First Bite weaves together fascinating scientific research to show why we wish we were still Kids in a Sweet Shop.  The book’s powerful message is that we can tap into the way we learned to eat as children to discover new flavours and healthier food habits.” Heston Blumenthal, head chef, The Fat Duck

"When you open FIRST BITE and see Science, don't panic. It is a weirdly addictive, intelligent and enjoyable explanation of why we eat as we do: more unputdownable than any non fiction has a right to be. Everyone should read it.  And it might change your life." Charlotte Mendelson

Non-Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes
2012

PENGUIN

Consider the Fork explores how the implements we use in the kitchen have shaped the way we cook and live.

This is the story of how we have tamed fire and ice, wielded whisks, spoons, graters, mashers, pestles and mortars, all in the name of feeding ourselves. Bee Wilson takes us on an enchanting culinary journey through the incredible creations, inventions and obsessions that have shaped how and what we cook. From huge Tudor open fires to sous-vide machines, the birth of the fork to Roman gadgets, Consider the Fork is the previously unsung history of our kitchens.

2009

JOHN MURRAY

Uncovering the many methods by which swindlers have tampered with our food throughout history, from the leaded wine of ancient Rome to the food piracy of the 21st century. Bee Wilson reveals the strong historical currents which enable the fraudsters to flourish; the battle of the science of deception against the science of detection; the struggle to establish reliable standards. She also suggests some small ways in which we can all protect ourselves from swindles and learn to trust what we eat again.

Praise for SWINDLED:

"Meticulously researched and fascinating to read, SWINDLED is guaranteed to give you food for thought"
Daily Express

"A wonderully written, thrilling rollercoaster of a book . . . A must-read: loaded with flavour, it is a satisfying rich stew of savoury details and meaty chunks of information - nourishment for the mind" Sunday Telegraph

"Riveting . . . If ever a book could convince you that the only food worth eating is that which you have scrupulously shopped for in reputable local shops and cooked yourself from scratch, it is this one" Daily Mail

"Bee Wilson is not only an able historian but a food writer with a passion rooted very much in the present. She wants to shake us awake, to make us look afresh at the food we eat. She does so triumphantly . . . erudite and entertaining . . . Wilson is a fervent lover of food but Swindled is not blind polemic . . . It is her considered and often humorous approach that makes this book so successful." Sunday Times

"[Bee Wilson’s] 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." Time Out

2004

JOHN MURRAY

Ever since men first hunted for honeycomb in rocks and daubed pictures of it on cave walls, the honeybee has been seen as one of the wonders of nature: social, industrious, beautiful, terrifying. No other creature has inspired in humans an identification so passionate, persistent or fantastical. THE HIVE takes us from the honey delta of ancient Egypt to the Tupelo forests of modern Florida, through the evolution of science, religion and politics, exploring the bee`s impact on food and human ritual. Beautifully illustrated with historic artwork, Bee Wilson`s journey through time and cultures shows how humans will always view the hive as a miniature universe with order and purpose, and look to it to make sense of their own.