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First Bite: How We Learn to Eat

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  2,697 ratings  ·  395 reviews
We are not born knowing what to eat; as omnivores it is something we each have to figure out for ourselves. From childhood onward, we learn how big a "portion" is and how sweet is too sweet. We learn to enjoy green vegetables -- or not. But how does this education happen? What are the origins of taste?

In First Bite, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson draws on the latest
Hardcover, 319 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Basic Books
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is an informative book about eating: about how taste preferences are formed, and how we can change them, and why it's so hard to start eating healthily when you're used to the opposite, and about eating disorders and their treatment. One of the things I learned from this book is that I do not enjoy reading about eating for nearly 300 pages, so if you love foodie books, your rating will likely be higher than mine. Those three stars represent my level of enjoyment rather than the quality of ...more
Christina Dudley
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you read a lot of food/foodie/nutrition books, which I do, the first part of this book will seem very familiar. There's the talk about obesity, processed foods, the disconnect between what we know to be good for us and our eating habits. Many of the same studies put in an appearance--the starving Minnesotans, the one that let babies eat whatever they wanted from a selection of whole foods, and so on---but Wilson's recap is thoughtful and informative. Where she heads into new territory is disc ...more
Saba Imtiaz
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As someone who has spent most of her life struggling with weight and diets, this book was an incredible revelation. First Bite is not some self righteous call to abandon one's unhealthy eating habits overnight, but it explores how our habits develop, the emotions and experiences that shaped them, and how to be cognisant of this history. It explains how to slowly start to change one's relationship and perception of food, and to adopt tastes that make all meals seem like comfort food. Highly, high ...more
Julie Davis
Nov 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting book about learning to eat and how that process continues throughout our lives. If I cared more about scientific studies I'd give this a higher star rating but for me the studies were gone into in exhaustive detail that I wish had been simply summed up for me. The details could easily have been included in an appendix for accuracy and interested readers. So I skimmed a lot of that information. I was also disinterested in food disorders so more skimming there.

However, there was plenty
Bob Schnell
Advanced reading copy review Due to be published December 1, 2015

I enjoyed Bee Wilson's previous book "Swindled" so was happy to try her latest food-related book "First Bite: How We Learn to Eat". This is not food porn, lusciously describing our first tastes of beloved dishes. Instead it is a scientific observation of how we learn to like and dislike certain foods and spices and how those preferences shape our diets. It is also a guide to how we can change our eating habits towards more healthy
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, food
This very readable book argues clearly and cogently that eating habits aren’t inevitable and can be changed. It is most definitely not a diet book, though. Wilson marshals a range of scientific research and history to explain how babies and children learn which foods they do and don’t like and how our adult habits are formed. I found this fascinating, as I had no idea about it before. Did you know what babies can learn to like tastes at four months? So young! The book covers childhood experience ...more
May 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Just as with the other Bee Wilson book I read previously, I was left feeling a bit disappointed by this one.

The first half of the book was incredibly boring, with long chapters that focussed on feeding (your own) children, rather than using childhood as an illustration of how adults once learned to eat. The second half of the book was definitely more interesting and discussed eating disorders and how taste preferences are formed, and how you can manipulate it through exposure.

While reading, I n
There is so much goodness packed into this book. I recommend it to anyone who eats. 😀. I especially recommend it to parents. There is info with inspiration for everyone.
The minute this book entered my consciousness (reviewed in the Guardian, of course), I couldn't wait to read it. While I generally consider myself a pretty tolerant person, one of the few things that really winds me up are fussy eaters, so a book exploring how and why we develop our tastes and dislikes promised to be very interesting. Wilson groups extreme fussy eating (where disliked foods are basically phobias) as an eating disorder as serious as anorexia, an idea which certainly gave me pause ...more
Sep 23, 2015 rated it liked it
A nonfiction book about the psychology of eating: how and why people become picky eaters, and how to change; how the body signals and interprets hunger; eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia (a really interesting detail I'd never heard before is that there's apparently increasing evidence that anorexia is genetic and not highly linked to pressure on teenage girls to diet - though of course such pressure is still negative and can cause other problems); cultural pressure to link certain taste ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed the research and presentation of the book by Wilson, as much as I enjoy a good Mary Roach book or A Natural History of the Senses because it is well-researched and straightforwardly organized, as evidenced by the twenty some-odd pages of notes and research but also that my favorite chapter was actually the epilogue called This is Not Advice where she summarizes the main points of the book. I basically read this chapter out loud to my husband after he heard bits and pieces of ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
First Bite is a bit of a departure for Bee Wilson. She usually writes about food history, as in her excellent books Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat and Swindled:The Dark History of Food Fraud, as well as her many articles and reviews in magazines such as The London Review of Books.

In this book she investigates how and why we acquire food preferences, and the consequences of those preferences. This involves her delving into biology, chemistry, history, sociology, and a great d
This book is getting a fourth star from me for two main reasons. First, if I had to describe this book in one word, it would be “hopeful” and I feel like hope is something many of us need to hear about both our personal eating habits and the rising obesity trends around the world. Second, this was super readable (though I really like cognitive psychology so that could be my personal preference). Overall, this book presents the argument that eating well is a skill – something we learn, can unlear ...more
Actual rating : 3.5 stars

Elsa K
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book fascinating and recommend it to anyone interested in food, cooking, psychology, children eating habits or the history of eating. I am going to seek out other books by Bee Wilson. It was an engaging read for an interesting topic. I also liked the mini chapters on certain foods.

One take away is that the WHO (World Health Organization) states that newborns should not eat anything other than breast milk (or formula) until 6 months old. The studies Ms. Wilson state show that this is
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
I was looking forward to reading Bee Wilson’s upcoming novel First Bite: How We Learn To Eat. A British food writer and historian, I was anticipating a most intriguing read! However, I wasn’t expecting a huge portion of the book to be devoted towards early developmental childhood psychology. And that is how I felt when reading this.

She talks about children as picky eaters and child obesity. This obviously would be better geared toward those with children and ways to watch their nutrition. Howeve
Haley Keller
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
First Bite is all about how people develop their sense of taste. As someone who has always been a picky eater (although I'd like to think I've branched out more now that I'm older), I'm fascinated by how people come to like certain things and not others. It's an exploration of something that is related to nutrition but also isn't like other nutrition books I've read. First Bite isn't really concerned with stressing what's healthy and unhealthy. It's just exploring why people come to eat certain ...more
May 01, 2016 rated it liked it
A good, thoughtful book that would have benefitted from stricter editing - I found it repetitive in places, although possibly because I did not need much convincing that what and how we eat is largely learned, not determined by genes. That said, I think in making that point, it glosses over some thorny issues - most significantly our near universal love for sugar, fat and salt. The fact itself is mentioned nearly on every page, but then curiously sidestepped: the book seems to suggest that once ...more
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kats by: NYT Book Review
A very interesting read on how to change and influence our eating habits and likes/dislikes at any stage of our life. The research is extensive, and even the anecdotal studies are fascinating. I have learnt what I should have done differently with my children when they were really tiny, and how I need to lay off making them finish what's on their plates. A super book for anyone who wants the inside scoop about better and healthier eating, with side dishes of learning about eating disorders and t ...more
Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies
too much research... but if you like to learn about food and why we pick what we do to eat go for this one. well done but too dry for me.
Apr 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting concepts about food and the fact that it is possible to change the way we eat. It more about environment than genes. We can all learn to love broccoli!
Imrankhan Mulla
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a book about food; about eating habits – how we develop them and they develop us.

‘We all begin life with an innate liking for sweetness and a suspicion of bitterness, yet there is nothing inevitable in our physiology that says we will grow up dreading vegetables and craving fudge. The trouble is, we do not tend to see it this way.’

Much like intelligence/character, people around us are quick to brand us at an early age – this one is intelligent/she is shy/he has a sweet tooth like his fat
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sometimes you stumble about a book often enough that it feels like you don't have a choice in reading it. In this case, I first came across it in a magazine lying around at work before then reading a fascinating article on clean eating ( that made me want to read more by the author (if you're at all interested in eating healthily I highly recommend the article, it's good stuff). So anyway, I relented and got this book and I'm glad I did.

"First bite" is a
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read about how humans relate to food.

Bee Wilson explores the at times dysfunctional relationships we have food: covering the development of our first likes and dislikes, the influence of cultural stereotypes on our preferences and last but not least eating disorders: such as extreme pickiness and anorexia. She is extremely good at discussing the manner in which picky children should be introduced to new food- though I'm sure the practice is trickier than the theory!

Most important
Sunjay Hauntingston
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
There's a lot of really useful scientific research about how we learn to eat here. I can imagine this being useful for parents learning to feed their kids and for people who just find the science fascinating. I especially appreciate the ideas on how to train yourself to expand your diet to new foods - there's even some techniques that are safe enough to try on yourself or to help picky children.

Unfortunately, the book also talks about weight loss in a way that implies being "overweight" or "obe
Joshua Gross
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was densely packed with delicious information about food, how children develop their food tastes, eating disorders, and changing how we eat food and what we like and dislike. I find it fascinating all that's learned about flavors and food preferences in early childhood, and how that effects us as adults. I also enjoyed learning about food cultures in other countries like England and Japan, particularly how Japan changed their eating habits completely over time to one of the healthiest ...more
Oct 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can’t stop talking about this book. It gave me so much food for thought over the past few months. Our relationship with food starts when we are in the womb and continues to develop over our lifetimes. Our parents, siblings, countries, and circumstances all impact whether we like salty, sweet, or sour foods. The most basic definition of what is delicious changes from country to country. We think of food traditions being static, but that is not at al the case. The way we feed children and oursel ...more
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, babies
Wanted to get this read before I fed someone else his "first bite." Really fascinating. I couldn't stop sharing bits with Lisa. It works really nicely with our way of baby led weaning. Western society has really messed up so many people. I didn't realize the extent of many disordered ways of eating. Many of the vegetable descriptions are just delicious, much of this book made me hungry. ...more
Feb 15, 2020 rated it liked it
I picked up this book to learn more about eating. And I did. Bee Wilson certainly did her research. I learned about hunger, feeding habits, and eating disorders. It was very thorough. I liked it, but I didn't love it.

It was just a little too much repetitiveness. Her chapters were so very long and they kept talking about the same thing over and over again.

So, I guess it was okay.
Fascinating, and incredibly useful at this point in my life since I have a six-month-old. Some of it is common sense, but other parts were information I didn't know, and interesting ways to counteract or work within the food culture we live in. ...more
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Beatrice Dorothy "Bee" Wilson (born 7 March 1974, Oxford) is a British food writer and historian. Wilson is married to the political scientist David Runciman and lives in Cambridge. The daughter of A.N. Wilson and the Shakespearean scholar Katherine Duncan-Jones, her sister is Emily Wilson, a Classicist at the University of Pennsylvania. ...more

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