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The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat

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An entertaining look at the little-known history surrounding the foods we know and loveIs Italian olive oil really  Italian, or are we dipping our bread in lamp oil? Why are we masochistically drawn to foods that can hurt us, like hot peppers? Far from being a classic American dish, is apple pie actually . . . English? “As a species, we’re hardwired to obsess over food,” Ma An entertaining look at the little-known history surrounding the foods we know and loveIs Italian olive oil really  Italian, or are we dipping our bread in lamp oil? Why are we masochistically drawn to foods that can hurt us, like hot peppers? Far from being a classic American dish, is apple pie actually . . . English? “As a species, we’re hardwired to obsess over food,” Matt Siegel explains as he sets out “to uncover the hidden side of everything we put in our mouths.” Siegel also probes subjects ranging from the myths—and realities—of food as aphrodisiac, to how one of the rarest and most exotic spices in all the world (vanilla) became a synonym for uninspired sexual proclivities, to the role of food in fairy- and morality tales.


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An entertaining look at the little-known history surrounding the foods we know and loveIs Italian olive oil really  Italian, or are we dipping our bread in lamp oil? Why are we masochistically drawn to foods that can hurt us, like hot peppers? Far from being a classic American dish, is apple pie actually . . . English? “As a species, we’re hardwired to obsess over food,” Ma An entertaining look at the little-known history surrounding the foods we know and loveIs Italian olive oil really  Italian, or are we dipping our bread in lamp oil? Why are we masochistically drawn to foods that can hurt us, like hot peppers? Far from being a classic American dish, is apple pie actually . . . English? “As a species, we’re hardwired to obsess over food,” Matt Siegel explains as he sets out “to uncover the hidden side of everything we put in our mouths.” Siegel also probes subjects ranging from the myths—and realities—of food as aphrodisiac, to how one of the rarest and most exotic spices in all the world (vanilla) became a synonym for uninspired sexual proclivities, to the role of food in fairy- and morality tales.

30 review for The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra X on hiatus (or trying to be)

    Secrets of what we like before we even know ourselves - tastes from the womb! When we are but foetuses floating in the womb drinking litres of amniotic fluid how much salt we like are formed. If our mother had a lot of morning sickness and lowered electrolyte levels, we might spend a lifetime wanting more salt! Flavours in breast milk, like garlic, cumin, curry, carrot, vanilla etc tend to produce a liking for those flavours in childen. I do wonder though it that is not just because the mother co Secrets of what we like before we even know ourselves - tastes from the womb! When we are but foetuses floating in the womb drinking litres of amniotic fluid how much salt we like are formed. If our mother had a lot of morning sickness and lowered electrolyte levels, we might spend a lifetime wanting more salt! Flavours in breast milk, like garlic, cumin, curry, carrot, vanilla etc tend to produce a liking for those flavours in childen. I do wonder though it that is not just because the mother cooks with those flavours anyway. But studies have shown that breastfed babies "tt more fruits and vegetables and be more adventurous eatershan those who were given formula, owing to their exposure to a greater variety of flavors early on". I bet they still won't eat sprouts though. Also interesting was honey and vegans. Vegans won't eat honey because of not exploiting bees for their produce. But without bees there would be no almond milk, avocados or much else where the bees are the natural pollinators. And the bees don't just come from the wild. They are trucked there as part of a commercial operation where the farmers pay the beekeepers and the beekeepers later sell the honey. See Following the Bloom: Across America with the Migratory Beekeepers So bees are exploited for their pollinating ability without which their would be few fruit and veggies! That kind of implies vegans shouldn't eat veggies if they won't eat honey, especially ones where the bees have been trucked in just to do the job. We all know that honey is sweet, honey is what we call our beloved, Greeks, Romans and Chinese put it next to corpses to help them have a sweet afterlife. In traditional Hindu weddings honey was rubbed on 'several of a bride's orifices to ensure a sweet marriage' (sounds like a Good Idea). But there is a dark sideHitler gave honey to wounded soldiers11 with a sweet note that read “Ein Gruss des Führers an seine Verwundeten” (“Greetings from the Führer to his wounded”)—though, fittingly, it was really just cheap imitation honey made from beet syrup and yellow food coloring In historic times, it was ok for German fathres to murder their own children before they had tasted honey. After that it was verboten. Hmmm. This is a truly interesting history full of 'secrets' I didn't know, even if the author doesn't like the British very much and think it was a good thing for everyone, including pies, that they got kicked out of America. America makes delicate pie crusts he says, the British make great big thick ones. This is because in days of yore before Tupperware was invented, good things to eat were sealed up in a thick pie crust to be baked, transported and used as a nice bowl that didn't need washing up. Another Good Idea. Great book, really enjoying it. Have to keep rereading to make sure I get all the details.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    I love books that are so full of facts I have to keep pausing my reading to interrupt share these fun facts with my partner (to her probable annoyance at times). The Secret History of Food is one such book. Thankfully, as a chef, she loves food trivia as much as I do so I didn't have to worry I was irritating her every few minutes. The subtitle is misleading because (of course) it's not the history of everything we eat. That would make for a much longer book, if anyone could even glean all of tha I love books that are so full of facts I have to keep pausing my reading to interrupt share these fun facts with my partner (to her probable annoyance at times). The Secret History of Food is one such book. Thankfully, as a chef, she loves food trivia as much as I do so I didn't have to worry I was irritating her every few minutes. The subtitle is misleading because (of course) it's not the history of everything we eat. That would make for a much longer book, if anyone could even glean all of that information. Who can possibly know the first time a human grabbed an artichoke and said, Hmmm. this looks like something I'd like to eat? Or a sea urchin. Really, who could possibly have thought that would be edible? But I digress. You won't read about the first person to eat a sea urchin, an artichoke, or cheese in a can but you will learn about things like: •How corn was originally about the size of a cigarette, and shorter. •Vagina and penis shaped bread - the former to woo the man of your dreams and the latter for when that didn't work (actually, no, these were made in different times and places, but really, you'd have thought they'd go together when the poor maidens failed to lure a hot, young stud). •Thomas Jefferson's recipe for ice cream. Hint: It's much easier to run to the supermarket and buy a pint of Ben & Jerry's. •"A 2015 study of 458 pounds of beef purchased from grocery stores in twenty-six US cities... found that all of it was contaminated with fecal bacteria." •Pie crust in England was originally hard and inedible, serving the purpose of being a container for the disgusting crap inside (like lamb's balls and deer guts). Thankfully the early Americans reinvented pie, making a nice, flaky crust and filling it with sweet apples and berries instead. The British replaced ice cream with carrot sticks as a treat during WWI while the US spent "more than a million dollars on a floating ice cream barge that roamed the Pacific delivering ice cream to Allied ships incapable of making their own". These two facts lead me to think that while Americans aren't great in everything, we at least do desserts better than the Brits did in the past. This is just a sampling of what you'll discover in this book. If you enjoy trivia and/or reading about food, you will find a lot to love in this book. It's entertaining as well as educational and the author is witty, inducing several laughs (and a couple groans as well). It's a quick read and fun and you'll learn perhaps more than you'd like to know about how synthetic vanilla is made.....

  3. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I didn’t finish this book as the beginning consists of the author quoting copiously from books and studies full of asshole comments. Is it not enough to say “this book was very racist” or “this other book is super misogynistic”? We have to quote it and make the reader feel like absolute garbage? Anyway, it reads as an attempt to be scholarly and is pretentious and intolerable. Hard pass from me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Bayer

    Interesting, fun and well written. This is the sort of nonfiction that's quite entertaining, and it seems well researched. I was surprised to reach the end when I was just over halfway through the book because the footnote section is so long. A fun read. I read a digital ARC of this book via NetGalley. Interesting, fun and well written. This is the sort of nonfiction that's quite entertaining, and it seems well researched. I was surprised to reach the end when I was just over halfway through the book because the footnote section is so long. A fun read. I read a digital ARC of this book via NetGalley.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of The Secret History of Food. This is a fascinating, amusing, and, yes, horrifying book where the author discusses some of the most popular foods in American culture; apple pie, tomatoes and vanilla, just to name a few and dispels myths about their origins. He also reminds us about the future of food consumption and production. Spoiler: it's not good. Really, really not good. I really enjoyed the chapter on chilies since I don't like spicy foods but I do love Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of The Secret History of Food. This is a fascinating, amusing, and, yes, horrifying book where the author discusses some of the most popular foods in American culture; apple pie, tomatoes and vanilla, just to name a few and dispels myths about their origins. He also reminds us about the future of food consumption and production. Spoiler: it's not good. Really, really not good. I really enjoyed the chapter on chilies since I don't like spicy foods but I do love horror movies. I believe there is a correlation, based on the author's research. I also liked the background on what the USDA and FDA do, which is too much with too little resources which explains the upheaval in our food and drug industries in regards to labeling, safety, and spastic guidelines on healthy eating that changes every year. The secret behind The Secret History of Food is not so much of a secret anymore: nothing we eat now is really safe. Our ancestors had it better, food wise, not longevity wise since they could be eaten by a predator at any time. My only caveat is there are too many pull quotes and excerpts from texts and articles. I really don't need to read the entire jingle from an old Burger King commercial. This is a good book, well written and well researched, and not just for foodies, but anyone who wants to learn more about what they put in their bodies. This isn't the faint of heart (some of the facts are gross and disturbing yet not new if you're educated about the state of our supply chain and food production) but as the author notes, we're a hardy species. And, hopefully, we'll just get stronger. Fingers crossed!

  6. 5 out of 5

    K. East

    I've never said this, ever, about any of the 1138 books I've read and reviewed on Goodreads, but this book was a completely annoying waste of my time. I almost abandoned it half way through but felt I should finish it before I gave a review that I knew was likely to be largely negative. There is so much wrong with this book that I hardly know where to start. How about the title? I know authors don't always have control over the final title of their published works but this one is so far off from I've never said this, ever, about any of the 1138 books I've read and reviewed on Goodreads, but this book was a completely annoying waste of my time. I almost abandoned it half way through but felt I should finish it before I gave a review that I knew was likely to be largely negative. There is so much wrong with this book that I hardly know where to start. How about the title? I know authors don't always have control over the final title of their published works but this one is so far off from being accurate, that I feel it needs a comment. The History of Food: strange but true stories about the origins of everything we eat -- Everything??!! Well, maybe random comments about a half dozen food items or categories, but hardly a complete history of all food or even the few items the author/editor included between the covers. At just under 200 pages, it would be hard to imagine that there was time for much of anything of consequence, which is the source of my major complaint. Yes, few of us wants to read a dry, scientific treatise on where our food choices originated, but this book is little more than a collection of the most startling and anecdotal details the author managed to cull from the 50 pages of resources listed at the back of the book. In fact, there is actually very little original writing here except to connect the dots between one "amusing" story borrowed from history and the next -- including those often pointless digressions that appear at the bottom of almost every page that often are so far off topic that one wonders why they are there. Like the one on page 170 in the chapter on chili peppers [strangely titled "Forbidden Berries"] which tells us "Other Aztec punishments involving pantry items included binding the hands and feet of naked children and stabbing them with the spines of agave leaves" Do you see any connection? I certainly didn't. But the author's preference for "foodie details" that touch on salacious or brutal anecdotes began to make the book feel more like the locker room talk at a junior high school than a nonfiction book on food. Chapter 6 on Vanilla, for instance, includes references to strawberries being a euphemism for menstruation, that orchid and avocado etymology derives from the word testicle, that "the sick fucking Romans" weaponized bacon by setting pigs on fire and releasing them, that babies "spent significantly more time attached to their mother's nipple" if mom ate vanilla -- all this in a chapter that was largely about ice cream!!?? Some of the anecdotes were certainly catchy, the kind of thing you might throw out at the cocktail party when there was lag in the conversation, but the book is in no way a history of "everything we eat" and perhaps, not really any reliable information at all about the half dozen selected topics. If you want a lightweight book to keep by the toilet during your daily visits, this book might be a good choice. But if you are actually curious about food, then you might want to look elsewhere.

  7. 4 out of 5

    OutlawPoet

    Well, I want pie. But I want American-Style pie, not the pie of old Europe. I am also now somewhat uncomforable eating bread in public - because now I know…. The Secret History of Food is just plain fun! In this brief history of food, the author takes us on a worldwide journey of eating! Some of it (seriously…I want pie) will thrill you. Some of it (can we say Vagina Bread?) will startle you. And some things (I’m looking at you, Fidel Castro!) will amuse you. But all of it is fascinating! The auth Well, I want pie. But I want American-Style pie, not the pie of old Europe. I am also now somewhat uncomforable eating bread in public - because now I know…. The Secret History of Food is just plain fun! In this brief history of food, the author takes us on a worldwide journey of eating! Some of it (seriously…I want pie) will thrill you. Some of it (can we say Vagina Bread?) will startle you. And some things (I’m looking at you, Fidel Castro!) will amuse you. But all of it is fascinating! The author’s style is so readable – I felt like I was reading food gossip. Not only did I enjoy every bit of it, I kept stopping to share tidbits with others. A wonderfully entertaining book! *ARC Provided via Net Galley

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rennie

    Highly entertaining but awfully ambitious re: “everything we eat” in such a short book. If you’re ok with no overarching thesis or uniting idea and what feels like a loose collection of (albeit really interesting) articles, this is great. Lots of interesting little factoids you’ll never forget even if you’d like to.

  9. 5 out of 5

    oohlalabooks

    I expected this to be something different, it is written in a textbook manner with interesting facts. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher. This is my honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Diane Hernandez

    If you, like me, are constantly googling random things as questions come up, you will love The Secret History of Food. It provides more in-depth information than Wikipedia. Luckily, it also goes off in weird tangents and down deep rabbit holes when an intriguing side fact is found. Here is an example. Why is vanilla slang for something plain and white? Vanilla is blackish-brown and relatively expensive. This leads through the obvious “for rich or royals” origin story of ice cream. Then to Prohibi If you, like me, are constantly googling random things as questions come up, you will love The Secret History of Food. It provides more in-depth information than Wikipedia. Luckily, it also goes off in weird tangents and down deep rabbit holes when an intriguing side fact is found. Here is an example. Why is vanilla slang for something plain and white? Vanilla is blackish-brown and relatively expensive. This leads through the obvious “for rich or royals” origin story of ice cream. Then to Prohibition where breweries and distilleries switched from alcohol to ice cream—setting Americans up for a new addiction. Ice cream impacted both world wars. During the 1950s, Castro was busy smuggling it into Cuba for his own use. Vanilla is just one of nine food-focused chapters. Pie, honey, cereal, corn, chili peppers, tomatoes, holiday festivals, and fast food are also discussed. The Secret History of Food is an interesting and unique look into how food impacts both our lives and those of our ancestors. I enjoyed learning new secrets about food. 4 stars! Thanks to Ecco and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nora St Laurent

    This is a surprising, informative, enlightening book filled with food history that blew me away and got me thinking. The author also talks about some superstitions and things that make you go what? The author has an entertaining yet sincere way of discussing food that is easy to read. I found it fascinating to learn the history of pies, where they were originated and where the American’s humble pie saying was originated. The author brings up some weird food practices, thoughts on food and fears This is a surprising, informative, enlightening book filled with food history that blew me away and got me thinking. The author also talks about some superstitions and things that make you go what? The author has an entertaining yet sincere way of discussing food that is easy to read. I found it fascinating to learn the history of pies, where they were originated and where the American’s humble pie saying was originated. The author brings up some weird food practices, thoughts on food and fears about different types of foods others thought as ok. Learning to use fire to cook food made it easier to chew and changed everything, how we prepared, ate, and shared food. I never gave it much thought. Some chapter titles are Pie, Progress and Plymouth Rock, Breakfast of Champions, Children of the Corn, Honey Laundering, The Vanilla Society, The Ghosts of Cockaigne past, The Choices of a New Generation Forbidden Berries, The choices of a new generation, Attack of the Killer tomato. I was fascinated by the talk about cereal and how it came to be. How it became the “breakfast of champions?” the author says, “…it’s a morning staple enjoyed by 93 percent of Americans,…prevalent on grocery lists that it not only gets its own aisle in the supermarket but plays a key role in the psychology… cereal transcends race, social class, age, gender – and even dietary guidelines,…”For many people, it’s the one food that they still eat sitting down, at a table, or with family.” The evolution of the breakfast cereal was intriguing. Another game changer in the way we eat was how the drive thru was created. The author packs a bunch in this 288 page book that will have you looking at your food in a very different way, especially when you learn about honey and corn. Disclosure of Material Connection: I have received a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” Nora St. Laurent TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! The Book Club Network blog www.bookfun.org

  12. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    First of all the title of this book does not match what it is. It’s not a secret history of “everything” that we are eating, it is a haphazard review of a few things with stories exerted for shock value here and there. That gave it a very pasted together feel and I found it difficult to get through.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    Like a poor man’s Michael Pollan book, less of a central theme, more long lists to prove a point

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jess Witkins

    After reading an article from the author that shared some fun facts of food history I was very interested in reading this book. Unfortunately, the book did not meet my expectations and was a struggle to get through. I don't think The Secret History of Food has a clear understanding of what it is or who its for. I found the writing to be very scattered, jumping from one thing to the next, unearthing information from centuries ago and then making a pop culture reference to today. There's not a lot After reading an article from the author that shared some fun facts of food history I was very interested in reading this book. Unfortunately, the book did not meet my expectations and was a struggle to get through. I don't think The Secret History of Food has a clear understanding of what it is or who its for. I found the writing to be very scattered, jumping from one thing to the next, unearthing information from centuries ago and then making a pop culture reference to today. There's not a lot of context or framework around any topic or time period. I felt like I was reading a deck of trivial pursuit flashcards. There are a lot of food facts and bits of history inside. Some were, indeed, interesting, but that's it. There wasn't a lot of substance given to how our food accessibility, cooking habits, culture, and tastes interact. My overwhelming impression was that quotes and facts with shock value were included above actual interpretation of the information shared. Specifically, there are A TON of footnotes. There were so many numbered and symbol-ed annotations that it was distracting to read the text, and I was surprised to discover that the book was over halfway through and the rest of the pages were bibliography! The other element that didn't work for me was the humor. It felt like the author was trying too hard. The same references seemed to be repeated (frying pans for fishing for example). And some of his jokes actually felt alienating to the reader. Many of the quotes shared in the book are quite despicable by today's standards in how they address minorities, and a few times I think he tried to point out that these comments were zealous and racist and/or sexist. Yet, the author himself made cracks in the vein of a humorous metaphor, but which was actually demeaning to some readers. It felt like he was trying to say he was "down" by calling some of it out, but also missed the point completely by using such quotations in the first place without worthwhile context and then using the same misguided humor himself at times. I was lost as to what the author's intent was. He shared so many examples of racist, sexist, and puritanical speeches, citing these historical white men's names and cracking jokes about their over-righteous beliefs. But when it came to describing the agricultural impacts of the Iroquois, he let the momentum drop by saying "no one knows why" they did this - TWICE! He reduced their role to something mythical in nature, which is very stereotyped. I think the author tried to cover too much in too little space, and that the book lacked sufficient editing and sensitivity readers. I wish there had been less quotations, specifically in the form of bigotry if you're not going to create more context and really dive into the ethics, economics, and race/gender of it all. I wish there'd been less lists (we don't need to read every kind of oreo or ice cream flavor or cereal adaptation, etc.). And I wish the book had offered me more beyond shocking comments and how doomed our diets all are. Thank you to NetGalley and the pubisher for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Angie Boyter

    I can get hooked on a great opening scene, but I don’t ever remember being so drawn by a dedication! As soon as I read that Matt Siegel wrote this book “For my mother, and her cooking. And my father, and his eating”, I knew I would like this book. The Secret History of Food is a lively compendium of information about food, all kinds of food and all kinds of information about it. Its title is very appropriate, because I can guarantee that there is a LOT in this book you did not know, whether it i I can get hooked on a great opening scene, but I don’t ever remember being so drawn by a dedication! As soon as I read that Matt Siegel wrote this book “For my mother, and her cooking. And my father, and his eating”, I knew I would like this book. The Secret History of Food is a lively compendium of information about food, all kinds of food and all kinds of information about it. Its title is very appropriate, because I can guarantee that there is a LOT in this book you did not know, whether it is that pie crust was not originally intended to be an edible part of the dish but merely something for the diner to hold while eating the contents or the fact that vanilla is the only edible “fruit” that grows on orchids. As you might guess from that dedication, the writing style is light and enjoyable but carefully crafted. Just as the dedication was nicely done, the chapter endings practically all left me with a big smile on my face. Each chapter treats a different subject, and the intriguing titles include topics like Breakfast of Champions, Children of the Corn, Honey Laundering, and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (Did you know that the average American ate 47 pounds of tomatoes in 2018?). Within those rather specific-sounding chapters, though, the information is wide-ranging. For example, the chapter on honey tells us that beehives were used as projectiles in wartime as far back as the Stone Age. Sometimes the interesting factoids were so wide-ranging that I wondered a bit about the relationship to food, but it was all fun. If you like history or learning odd facts or just want to be able to impress your friends with your “strange but true” knowledge at the next party, The Secret History of Food will be a tasty addition to your literary menu.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    This book is full of fun facts and entertaining history about our food and the ingredients we use. It was interesting and obviously extremely well-researched (nearly half the book is devoted to notes and citations!), though I found some of the chapters got just a little dry and repetitive. Despite that, I really enjoyed it, and I think this will be a must read for anyone interested in food, history, or just strange-but-true tidbits of information to drop into conversation. I am so grateful to Ne This book is full of fun facts and entertaining history about our food and the ingredients we use. It was interesting and obviously extremely well-researched (nearly half the book is devoted to notes and citations!), though I found some of the chapters got just a little dry and repetitive. Despite that, I really enjoyed it, and I think this will be a must read for anyone interested in food, history, or just strange-but-true tidbits of information to drop into conversation. I am so grateful to NetGalley and Ecco for the opportunity to read and review The Secret History of Food. #SecretHistoryOfFood #MattSiegel #Cookbook #NetGalley #BookReviews #Bookstagram #BookReview #Books #Bookstagrammer #Bookworm #Booklover #BooksOfInstagram #BookRecommendations #ReadersOfInstagram #BookNerd #Bookish #Bibliophile #Reading #BookReviewer #Book #BookAddict #Reader #BookLovers #Bookshelf #Goodreads #Review #BookRecommendation #BookClub #Reviews #BookReader

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erin Cataldi

    Foodies and trivia lovers will eat up this irreverent and fascinating book about the origins, misconceptions, science, and subculture behind certain foods and spices. Author, Matt Siegel, digs deep to uncover weirdly entertaining facts about food that will leave readers both fascinated and moderately disgusted. From the origins of a well known cereal, to mummified heads in honey, to the most expensive and exotic spice in the world being used to describe boring sex lives; The Secret History of Fo Foodies and trivia lovers will eat up this irreverent and fascinating book about the origins, misconceptions, science, and subculture behind certain foods and spices. Author, Matt Siegel, digs deep to uncover weirdly entertaining facts about food that will leave readers both fascinated and moderately disgusted. From the origins of a well known cereal, to mummified heads in honey, to the most expensive and exotic spice in the world being used to describe boring sex lives; The Secret History of Food has something in it for everyone. Over the course of ten chapters, Siegel spills the beans on so many different "common" foods, that walking into the grocery store or showing up at a potluck with your favorite dish will never be the same again. Brilliantly read by Roger Wayne who effuses energy and hilarity into his narration. A feast for the mind.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Catie

    The Secret History of Food is my kind of book. I love learning trivia in context and this does just that. Matt Siegel spins a story about the progression of food: what we eat, why, and the larger issues that surround it. From why we like McDonalds, to the rise of corn and it’s prolific usage, the multitude of reasons the body wasn’t meant to eat chili peppers, and on to the physical and psychological effect of choice and variety (or lack there of) in the foods we eat, this book fits so much in a The Secret History of Food is my kind of book. I love learning trivia in context and this does just that. Matt Siegel spins a story about the progression of food: what we eat, why, and the larger issues that surround it. From why we like McDonalds, to the rise of corn and it’s prolific usage, the multitude of reasons the body wasn’t meant to eat chili peppers, and on to the physical and psychological effect of choice and variety (or lack there of) in the foods we eat, this book fits so much in a small package. I wish I could have gone a little more in depth on a few topics but that’s not what this was meant as. It did as it was intended to do: it wet my appetite for the history of what we eat and why and provided so much food for thought at the store. I hope you give it a shot and learn as much as I did. As my roommate could attest, I loved the book and the unusual facts and humorous writing contained within.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Krynn Hanold

    I found out about this book through an excerpt of how ice cream became the ultimate american comfort food, which ultimately made me want to read more of the book. I thought everything in this book was fascinating—even the author going *slightly* off-topic once in a while to follow a thread with more interesting facts from history, which I know some folks complained about. I will say I debated between 3.5 and 4 stars because I didn't always find that the author's sarcastic cracks had the impact he I found out about this book through an excerpt of how ice cream became the ultimate american comfort food, which ultimately made me want to read more of the book. I thought everything in this book was fascinating—even the author going *slightly* off-topic once in a while to follow a thread with more interesting facts from history, which I know some folks complained about. I will say I debated between 3.5 and 4 stars because I didn't always find that the author's sarcastic cracks had the impact he had hoped—they felt a little forced at times, with them becoming more well-timed toward the middle of the book. Ultimately, though, I enjoyed his writing style, appreciated the funny tidbits such as John Smith trying to catch fish with a frying pan, and thought that what I was here to learn was conveyed well. I also (and this didn't affect the rating because he wrote what he wrote and I enjoyed it) was a little disappointed it wasn't longer. I learned a ton of fascinating—see also: horrifying—facts about food, but I'm definitely finding myself looking for more, so this is probably a great segue into AMERICAN CUISINE and THE POISON SQUAD.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    This is such a wonderful book that I’m sorry I’ve finished it! THE SECRET HISTORY OF FOOD is stuffed with stories, anecdotes, warnings and just plain factoid-filled. Since much of what author Matt Siegel writes can seem unbelievable, almost half the book is devoted to footnotes and source documents. Siegel has a sense of the absurd and wonderful about everything humans have found to put in their mouths or rub on their bodies (or sell unsuspecting customers.) I loved every minute of this book and This is such a wonderful book that I’m sorry I’ve finished it! THE SECRET HISTORY OF FOOD is stuffed with stories, anecdotes, warnings and just plain factoid-filled. Since much of what author Matt Siegel writes can seem unbelievable, almost half the book is devoted to footnotes and source documents. Siegel has a sense of the absurd and wonderful about everything humans have found to put in their mouths or rub on their bodies (or sell unsuspecting customers.) I loved every minute of this book and if he wants to write another, I’ll be waiting anxiously. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    The Secret History of Food by Matt Siegel is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early August. Siegel's book covers such topics as the eating preferences of people that sometimes following them from the womb; exposing raw ingredients to heat to make them more palatable; its historic and social significance, global perspectives, stats and case studies, feasting and celebrating, changes in our vocabulary, as well as customization and the future of certain dishes. The Secret History of Food by Matt Siegel is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early August. Siegel's book covers such topics as the eating preferences of people that sometimes following them from the womb; exposing raw ingredients to heat to make them more palatable; its historic and social significance, global perspectives, stats and case studies, feasting and celebrating, changes in our vocabulary, as well as customization and the future of certain dishes.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Carr

    Starts with flavors carried through breast milk and covers a whole lot more from historical food discoveries to modern uses and trends. I didn't think I had an internal reading voice but totally read this hearing the comic wit of Mike Rowe as there is some opinions and snark within. I think my favorite chapter was about ice cream and it's ties to the war during sugar rationing but being so American as to get it to soldiers as a form of moral boosting. Starts with flavors carried through breast milk and covers a whole lot more from historical food discoveries to modern uses and trends. I didn't think I had an internal reading voice but totally read this hearing the comic wit of Mike Rowe as there is some opinions and snark within. I think my favorite chapter was about ice cream and it's ties to the war during sugar rationing but being so American as to get it to soldiers as a form of moral boosting.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gina *loves sunshine*

    This was a good listen! It's obviously not the history of all foods but highlights just a few big and small areas of the food spectrum. The beginning was a bit broad....maybe tongue and cheek approach trying to be witty approach? but the rest of the book held my attention with interesting stories of where certain foods began and how they have adapted. I'm always super into this kind of stuff so I'm going to give it 4 stars for being somewhat original and possibly truthful!! This was a good listen! It's obviously not the history of all foods but highlights just a few big and small areas of the food spectrum. The beginning was a bit broad....maybe tongue and cheek approach trying to be witty approach? but the rest of the book held my attention with interesting stories of where certain foods began and how they have adapted. I'm always super into this kind of stuff so I'm going to give it 4 stars for being somewhat original and possibly truthful!!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Yapha

    This was absolutely fascinating! The history of food is presented in a combination of well researched facts and light hearted commentary. It felt like a fun conversation with a knowledgeable friend. I'll be sprinkling these facts into conversations for a while! Highly recommended for anyone interested in history or food. (Not for kids) eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss This was absolutely fascinating! The history of food is presented in a combination of well researched facts and light hearted commentary. It felt like a fun conversation with a knowledgeable friend. I'll be sprinkling these facts into conversations for a while! Highly recommended for anyone interested in history or food. (Not for kids) eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Teibrich

    A truely fascinating book about food: tomatos, chilis, apple pie, … and their history. Probably not exactly a need to know content,but definitely a fun book 📚😃

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    Siegel offers a fun if random review of food and nutrition facts. Each chapter has a proposed focus beginning with the mechanism of swallowing, then moving into pies, cereal, corn, honey, and vanilla, detouring into a section on gluttony and one on choices, then back to food with a discussion on chili peppers, and closing with a chapter ostensibly on tomatoes but actually about US government recommendations, guidelines, and oversight. Each chapter is bursting with factoids, trivia, historical ac Siegel offers a fun if random review of food and nutrition facts. Each chapter has a proposed focus beginning with the mechanism of swallowing, then moving into pies, cereal, corn, honey, and vanilla, detouring into a section on gluttony and one on choices, then back to food with a discussion on chili peppers, and closing with a chapter ostensibly on tomatoes but actually about US government recommendations, guidelines, and oversight. Each chapter is bursting with factoids, trivia, historical accounts, scientific explanations, and data that range all over the map. The section on corn includes a diversion about vampires, the chapter on vanilla is actually about ice cream (and its role in military campaigns), and sometimes Siegel seems to lose the thread of the chapter. There's an extraordinary number of footnotes and citations, and even the most outlandish claims appear to have some source of support. I also have to give Siegel props for (often) noting when the research is uncertain or there's reason for skepticism. Siegel is a fun writer who keeps the information and stories flowing with occasional humorous asides and lots of memorable anecdotes. What this book lacks is any sense of structure or organization: there's no opening or introductory chapter that offers a framework for what follows, nor is there a conclusion that brings everything together. As evidenced by the chapter layout described above, the reader is never quite sure where Spiegel is going or why, and his detours sometimes go completely off track to the point that a different chapter title was necessary. While disorganized books can be infuriating, this one isn't. The stories and facts are intriguing, so it comes across more like the class of an entertaining but absent-minded professor who has a wealth of knowledge but becomes so enamored by his teaching that he forgets what the class is about. I'll take that class any day. Thanks to NetGalley for offering a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Reallyfun and interesting read on all the origins, quirks, and anomalies of our food. A quick and enjoyable at rimes laugh-out-loud, other times jaw-dropping read!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Let me begin by saying that Matt Siegel has done an incredible amount of research into the secret history of food. This book was quite an undertaking - he presents very obscure factoids and history about our everyday foods. But let me describe how it feels to read this book - buckle up and put your helmet on because you are in for a frenetic ride through history. The chapters go through so many rabbit holes, I felt I needed bread crumbs to find my way back to the topic. The writing reminded me o Let me begin by saying that Matt Siegel has done an incredible amount of research into the secret history of food. This book was quite an undertaking - he presents very obscure factoids and history about our everyday foods. But let me describe how it feels to read this book - buckle up and put your helmet on because you are in for a frenetic ride through history. The chapters go through so many rabbit holes, I felt I needed bread crumbs to find my way back to the topic. The writing reminded me of that annoying work colleague who always gives you a long-winded, much too detailed (and TMI) answer to your basic question. I also could only read one chapter at a time because I felt like I ate a 5 course meal and needed to digest. I also don't recommend reading this anytime near meal time -- there are many moments where I lost my appetite. I do give the author a lot of credit for all the research - and if you are looking for interesting tidbits about food (with all the caveats above), then I would recommend this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    As much as I am a fan of sarcasm, even I have an acceptable limit and this book surpassed that. The constant interjection of comments got in the way of enjoying the interesting information provided. It was overwhelming and distracting. I assume the author thought this added to the telling of the stories but instead it came across as him thinking himself quite clever. Just like an obnoxious guy at the bar, it ruined what could have been a good time. Between the various eye roll inducing comments, As much as I am a fan of sarcasm, even I have an acceptable limit and this book surpassed that. The constant interjection of comments got in the way of enjoying the interesting information provided. It was overwhelming and distracting. I assume the author thought this added to the telling of the stories but instead it came across as him thinking himself quite clever. Just like an obnoxious guy at the bar, it ruined what could have been a good time. Between the various eye roll inducing comments, however, there was a lot of fascinating information. If only there were an edited version for people who want the secrets without so much sarcasm. Thanks to NetGalley and Ecco for a copy of the book. This review is my own opinion.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I'm fascinated by food customs over the centuries. This one was really well done, especially his humorous side comments. You don't need to have any background in food to appreciate this. I'm fascinated by food customs over the centuries. This one was really well done, especially his humorous side comments. You don't need to have any background in food to appreciate this.

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