The Way We Eat Now by Bee Wilson [7/10]

I bet you’re like me, a ball of confusion about what to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in between. Or maybe you’ve seized on what you think is the right way to eat but have doubts. Or you lament the modern world of food and diets. Well, food writer Bee Wilson has written a brilliant overview of that world. “The Way We Eat Now: Strategies for Eating in a World of Change” surveys the globe’s food and eating practices and cultures, ranging over every question you’ve ever asked.

The author describes “the rise of meat and oil and the fall of bread.” The story of food is one of triumph, with once-common starvation still omnipresent but far less prevalent, but also one of impending doom, with obesity and food-caused illnesses hounding the modern world. We eat far too much, and far too much sugar, saturated fat, and salt. A hundred species of banana exist but the deliberately bred tasteless Cavendish banana is now nearly half of all those grown. In a startlingly short period of time, all our past habits and cultures of eating have been replaced by supermarket crap, takeaways but also deliveries, and diet fads and fancies. I was fascinated to read that “snacking now accounts for half of all eating occasions in the United States. “Why is it called a protein bar,” Wilson writes, ” and not a sugar bar?” She laments that “we need new ways of thinking about food to help us to adjust to the abundance that now surrounds us and to start to build a better way of eating.” An epilogue provides personal tips for just such better ways. If the task seems Sisyphean, she remains hopeful: “Here is the consolation of eating in these strange times: the best of it is better than anything that came before and the worst of it won’t stay the same for ever.” Cogently structured and elegantly written, “The Way We Eat Now” is essential reading for anyone interested in this vital topics.

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