Book Review - First Bite: How We Learn To Eat

by Bee Wilson (Fourth Estate) ISBN: 9780007549702 

This is the fifth food-related book from award-winning British food writer, Bee Wilson. The book is a delightful agglomeration of scientific research, case studies and Bee’s experience as a food journalist and parent. 

The book explores the complex factors that influence our affinity to certain foods and disgust for others. What a relief to discover that taste, like personality, is not hardwired or genetic (although those play a role) so can be gradually diversified with exposure. Wilson introduces a gentle approach to encourage a more adventurous palate in picky children and adults, while developing healthier eating habits. 

The case studies, historical and recent, include an experiment from 1926 on children in an orphanage placed on a “self-selection diet”, a woman who ate only four specific foods and Finnish pre-schoolers who were introduced to a sensory experience of food. There’s even a tale about how an entire country that re-invented its food habits and consequently the health and wellbeing of its citizens. 

First Bite kept me enthralled with the research that reads like a conversation with Wilson. I adored this book. 

Ewa Fabris


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A Widow's Story - A Memoir

by Joyce Carol Oates (Fourth Estate) R316, 00 ISBN 978-0-00-738818-0


Joyce Carol Oates is the recipient of many English Awards. Her husband, Ray was also involved with English. It seemed like a communion of great minds.  Until Joyce Carol Oates drove her very fit husband to the Princeton Medical Centre where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. 


Both Joyce and Ray expected him to return home within a few days. Joyce was totally unprepared for the death of her soul mate.  We all know loss and identify with her anguish, sheer confusion and loneliness of an empty house. 


This is an unflinching portrayal of grief by a great writer. 


My only comment is that it needed to be condensed. I accept that her grief was all consuming. I feel for her as I would for myself all the terrible things that you endure with grief. I think some losses are felt to be greater than others. The depth of their love for each other is so well written and the end pages are most interesting. 


We all have secrets and Ray's secrets were revealed after his death. His widow's jealousy of his youthful past is surprising.  But her sympathy for who he was, was filled with understanding. This is a very true portrayal of sadness when you lose the person you love the most in the world.


Dee Andrew


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