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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

    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.

  2. 4 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.

  3. 5 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 4 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  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. 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.

  15. 5 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.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    (Note: I read an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Matt Siegel’s The Secret History of Food proved to be a delightful feast for the mind. Every single individual chapter was rich in facts that ran the gamut from fascinating, to eye-opening, and often to flat-out startling. Even for the topics that I thought myself quite familiar with (for example, the peculiar origins of breakfast cereals in America), Siegal was able to provide a surprising wealth of new detail alongside hi (Note: I read an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Matt Siegel’s The Secret History of Food proved to be a delightful feast for the mind. Every single individual chapter was rich in facts that ran the gamut from fascinating, to eye-opening, and often to flat-out startling. Even for the topics that I thought myself quite familiar with (for example, the peculiar origins of breakfast cereals in America), Siegal was able to provide a surprising wealth of new detail alongside his own witty and thoughtful commentary. It was the kind of entertainingly educational read that in spite of all of the information that it packed, I was able to devour it in what felt like no time (almost to my dismay). Here is to hoping that the author provides second helpings with another book in the near future.

  17. 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.

  18. 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 b 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 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Ecco- Harper Collins for an advanced copy of this food facts and much more book. I will admit that I approached Matt Siegel's The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat with hopes that it would be slightly interesting with maybe some ideas for dinner on Sunday. Instead I found myself laughing, amazed at what I ingested, and quoting huge sections of the book to friends, family and anyone who would listen. In My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Ecco- Harper Collins for an advanced copy of this food facts and much more book. I will admit that I approached Matt Siegel's The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat with hopes that it would be slightly interesting with maybe some ideas for dinner on Sunday. Instead I found myself laughing, amazed at what I ingested, and quoting huge sections of the book to friends, family and anyone who would listen. In fact I generated some presales on the book, which is great because this book is so much more than I expected. The tome is not long, but it is packed with information, and also with notes backing up the information. From the dedication to his parents, to the epigraphs that start the first chapter, you are off learning fun facts, history, business practices, and sometimes things any reader might feel they are better off not knowing about the food production chain. The writing is informative, and funny, as I stated. I'm being cagey with the jokes and facts, as I don't want to ruin anything, I feel bad for the people who preordered the book, as I think I might have gone on alot. I will share that you will learn the origin of green honey, and popularity of iceberg lettuce. I really can't praise this book enough. What I enjoyed was the confidence that Mr. Siegel had in his writing. He had the research, he did the work, here is what he found that he thought others might enjoy reading about. Recommended for foodies, people who have to deal with foodies, people who like to put foodies in their place, people who love facts and people who like to laugh. Oh and the people I bothered with facts so much they had to preorder the book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. The Secret History of Food is an engaging look at food absolutely full of trivia and minutiae curated and presented by Matt Siegel. Due out 31st Aug 2021 from Harper Collins on their Ecco imprint, it's 288 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks w Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. The Secret History of Food is an engaging look at food absolutely full of trivia and minutiae curated and presented by Matt Siegel. Due out 31st Aug 2021 from Harper Collins on their Ecco imprint, it's 288 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately; it makes it so easy to find information with the search function. I love trivia, factoids, and other bits of minutiae. It's cheering to "know stuff" and pleasant to sometimes see connections between words, etymology, and history. This book is so full of facts and trivia that it's difficult to read for long without *needing* to break off to go and chase down some reference or related details. The language is perfectly accessible and clearly written that it's understandable by anyone. The book is prodigiously annotated throughout and refreshingly accessible to non-academics. I received an ebook ARC for review and being able to click on the annotations and footnotes for more information was extremely handy. There are certainly a number of eye-opening and startling bits of history from ancient times down to the modern day. Obviously a niche book, but highly recommended for lovers of trivia. Four stars. Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Reading Our Shelves

    See full review at: https://readingourshelves.com/2021/08... This was a quirky book I found randomly on NetGalley. It was a short and fun read, with ten chapters covering: How the history of food/agriculture is intertwined with human history, pie, cereal, corn, honey, vanilla/ice cream, celebrations surrounding food and drink, having too many choices, chili peppers, and how we fall prey to misconceptions about (or willful mislabeling of) the foods we eat. Some of my favorites were the sweet chapter See full review at: https://readingourshelves.com/2021/08... This was a quirky book I found randomly on NetGalley. It was a short and fun read, with ten chapters covering: How the history of food/agriculture is intertwined with human history, pie, cereal, corn, honey, vanilla/ice cream, celebrations surrounding food and drink, having too many choices, chili peppers, and how we fall prey to misconceptions about (or willful mislabeling of) the foods we eat. Some of my favorites were the sweet chapters, like the ones on pie and ice cream. For example, did you know that ice cream’s popularity in the U.S. skyrocketed during prohibition? Apparently, we needed an alternative method of drowning our sorrows. And ice cream became a staple of soldiers’ diets during WWII – good for both fast calories and boosting morale. The chapter on chili peppers was also entertaining, as it basically points out the craziness of doing things that hurt us. Various kinds of peppers were used in early agricultural days to keep animals out of the crops – by planting them around the perimeter, the would-be pests would encounter the hot peppers first, and turn the other way. And yet, we eat them on purpose. Are we just adrenaline junkies, or do we feel we have something to prove? The last chapter is a bummer, though, as it gets into how much of our food is mislabeled, not as healthy as it claims, or doesn’t get inspected as much as it should. Specifically, vitamins and seafood are often not what they purport to be. The book is so meticulously researched, though, that the footnotes take up HALF of the length. So, as I said earlier, it’s a quick romp to get through the ten chapters.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Darius Ostrowski

    “The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat” by Matt Siegel is a fun romp through some of the weird and wacky histories of foods that make it to our tables. In ten chapters, Mr. Siegel focuses on some of the bizarre behaviors that have defined our relationship with the foods we eat. We start with a general overview of food and tasting, and how we’re affected by the choices our parents make even before we are born. I never really connected the idea “The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat” by Matt Siegel is a fun romp through some of the weird and wacky histories of foods that make it to our tables. In ten chapters, Mr. Siegel focuses on some of the bizarre behaviors that have defined our relationship with the foods we eat. We start with a general overview of food and tasting, and how we’re affected by the choices our parents make even before we are born. I never really connected the idea of cooking as a means to reduce the amount of energy we expand to chew and digest food, but I guess it makes sense. Then we move on to a selection of specific foods and their histories: the role of pie in medieval times and especially in the British US colonies, cold breakfast cereal as a means to prevent overstimulation, our dependence on corn (and vice versa), the complexity of honey, why vanilla is anything but boring, the history of feasts and the special foods we serve, the industrialization of food nowadays, how we are the only species that eats food that burns (spicy peppers) on purpose, and finally a look at the bureaucracy that governs what we eat today. This is not a comprehensive history of food, rather an interesting and humorous look at specific areas and instances of how and what we eat. I am sure that Mr. Siegel has many more tales to tell and I for one will be there to read them. I requested and received a free advanced electronic copy from Ecco via NetGalley. Thank you!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Food is a fascinating topic. It's a foundational aspect of our lives, but it's also something that all of our ancestors have needed in order to survive as well. This book covers everything from the origins of modern day cereal to how pie may have contributed to the founding of the United States. Siegel ponders the irony of seeking out capsaicin (the component that leads to the burning sensation in spicy foods) when its purpose is to deter mammals from eating the plant in the first place, and he Food is a fascinating topic. It's a foundational aspect of our lives, but it's also something that all of our ancestors have needed in order to survive as well. This book covers everything from the origins of modern day cereal to how pie may have contributed to the founding of the United States. Siegel ponders the irony of seeking out capsaicin (the component that leads to the burning sensation in spicy foods) when its purpose is to deter mammals from eating the plant in the first place, and he pulls back the veil on popular cooking ingredients such as olive oil. Though food has an ancient history, Siegel covers its more recent history, not going back much further than the last 1000 years or so. There is a wry tone throughout the book as some of the history described here is dark and rather tragic. There are also some truly comical moments like the descriptions of how much Americans liked pie, much to the confusion of our British counterparts. There were plenty of interesting stories that kept me hooked all the way through, but I felt like the book ended abruptly. There was a little bit of a wrap up in the last few paragraphs in the final chapter, but it might have been nice to have a shorter chapter that tied everything together. Overall, this is a really good read for anyone has an interest in food, where it comes from, and how it affects us today. It's entertaining, but also thought-provoking. I look forward to reading Siegel's future work! A big thanks to Matt Siegel, Ecco, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and honestly review this book!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is both hysterical and informative wrapped into one. If you are at all a fan of Alton Brown and his show "Good Eats," you will most certainly like this book. I kept coming back to that show and its similarities to this book throughout. There are 10 chapters in all, and each takes a topic or food, and gives you not only the background from past to present, but a whole slew of bizarre and random tidbits as well. These i I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is both hysterical and informative wrapped into one. If you are at all a fan of Alton Brown and his show "Good Eats," you will most certainly like this book. I kept coming back to that show and its similarities to this book throughout. There are 10 chapters in all, and each takes a topic or food, and gives you not only the background from past to present, but a whole slew of bizarre and random tidbits as well. These include topics such as breakfast cereals, pie, vanilla and consumer advertising. Rarely do things actually make me laugh out loud when reading but this book managed to do that several times. I would read things and literally just shake my head and chuckle over what I just read. The advanced copy is only 197 pages of actual reading material, followed by 55 pages of notes and citations. One interesting thing in the ARC, not sure if the final copy will be like this as well, is the extremely large number of asterisks and notes within the reading itself. What was odd to me is that these were extremely informative and many were written in the same vain as the actual material, so I'm not sure why they weren't just incorporated into the writing itself. There are many pages where 1/4-1/3 of the page is the notes or addendum's at the bottom. Do yourself a favor and read them as they are central to the discussion, which is why I think it would have been a much better flow to just add them into the writing itself. Highly entertaining read though.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zev

    I thought this would focus on different foods than it did. Some things I already knew, but the book quoted other works on those things more thoroughly. The book seems largely built out of others and has heaps of footnotes. "Stoned" is a nonfiction book about jewelry by Aja Raden. It also quotes other sources as well and has copious footnotes, but hers are far more chatty and interesting in physical book form. I read it once a year. Please don't read it as an ebook; it'll drive you nuts. She enco I thought this would focus on different foods than it did. Some things I already knew, but the book quoted other works on those things more thoroughly. The book seems largely built out of others and has heaps of footnotes. "Stoned" is a nonfiction book about jewelry by Aja Raden. It also quotes other sources as well and has copious footnotes, but hers are far more chatty and interesting in physical book form. I read it once a year. Please don't read it as an ebook; it'll drive you nuts. She encourages people to read other books too and is open about her research methods, whereas this author does not. I don't doubt his research; he just approaches it differently. The author doesn't seem interested in writing exactly, but quoting other sources. It felt like a long seminar course at university with a professor who was worried about being bored. The blurb warns parts of the book are disgusting. Yeah, but it happens less frequently than I thought. This is a great example of why trigger warnings and content warnings should be advertised on blurbs and in copy regularly. CW/TW: The bran cereal guy sexually abused female patients; rites of passage from other cultures that would make a Westerner (me) squeamish; the gross things foods are filled with in modern day and age. The book doesn't end with a conclusion. The author increasingly quotes statistics for paragraphs at a time near the end. The structure of the book is not great. Still glad I read this. Over half the book is footnotes and acknowledgments, so this does seem like a quick read despite page count.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    *This book was received as an Advanced Reviewer's Copy from NetGalley. Anything about food and history will be a draw for me. I like learning the origin of dishes, the trends of the past, and well, it's way better than the history courses in school because I get to pick the subject. This book covers a few areas of food (with a sardonic tone throughout), taking a hard look at some of the past foibles and current watch-outs for food. Ranging from breakfast cereals (hello Kellogg and Graham and your *This book was received as an Advanced Reviewer's Copy from NetGalley. Anything about food and history will be a draw for me. I like learning the origin of dishes, the trends of the past, and well, it's way better than the history courses in school because I get to pick the subject. This book covers a few areas of food (with a sardonic tone throughout), taking a hard look at some of the past foibles and current watch-outs for food. Ranging from breakfast cereals (hello Kellogg and Graham and your uh, interesting, ways and beliefs). Olive oil (what is it really), tomatoes (definitely not good to eat), vanilla (the most favorite ice cream flavor ever), and others make their histories known in this book. While a lot of times it focuses on odd beliefs and the potential or real adulteration of foods, it also offers some look at just how the food entered the human diet and how popular it is today. Overall, the book is kind of melancholy. It really gets to the not so nice history of these foods in most cases and while interesting, can be a bit like living in a shadow while you're reading the book. And I'm a bit scared of my olive oil now, but not enough to stop using it. I did enjoy the book though and learned a few new facts, and I appreciated the author's grim sense of humor or interjections of issues that only vaguely related to the food at hand, but were still poignant. Review by M. Reynard 2021

  27. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    Organized into chapters focusing on different subsets of food, Siegel weaves through history to uncover some wacky eating habits from pre-historic times, to the modern obsession with eating visually. He starts off with an American classic - the apple pie, and dives into the history of these homey pastries. Way before snack baggies or even lunch boxes, Brits cooked their pies with inedible crusts to aid in transportation and shelf life. It wasn’t until Americans were strapped for dough, and had to Organized into chapters focusing on different subsets of food, Siegel weaves through history to uncover some wacky eating habits from pre-historic times, to the modern obsession with eating visually. He starts off with an American classic - the apple pie, and dives into the history of these homey pastries. Way before snack baggies or even lunch boxes, Brits cooked their pies with inedible crusts to aid in transportation and shelf life. It wasn’t until Americans were strapped for dough, and had to stretch every crust to its last, that edible crusts were developed. Stories like these litter the book, offering eye-opening stories and logic behind what we eat and why. Outside of pie, my other favorite chapters were on chilis and honey. Siegel dives into human’s fascination with these spicy berries, and uncovers the dark side of doctored honey. He discusses how the FDA and UDSA are essentially a buearucratic quagmire with more red tape than protection. But with each topic, he brings a levity that had me chuckling each chapter. I loved Siegel’s deep dive into Dark Ages and Renaissance feasts to uncover the unconventional centerpieces crafted by royal chefs (the chicken’s head sewn onto a pigs body gives you an idea of some of the creations). Far from just speaking to the recipe and then moving onto the next dish, Siegel recreates each era explaining why and how these meals were made. With humor and insight, this is an easy book to bite into.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lori Holuta

    Written in a lush conversational style, this is not a concise reference guide, and that's just fine with me. I like the "I'm telling you secrets" tone of the book. It feels like I'm relaxing with a brandy after dinner and listening to that one distant cousin, you know, the odd one, tell shocking stories just out of earshot of the more genteel relatives. And I have to confess, the 'short' list of aphrodisiacs had me laughing until I cried. I found the chapter on corn to be astounding in its scope Written in a lush conversational style, this is not a concise reference guide, and that's just fine with me. I like the "I'm telling you secrets" tone of the book. It feels like I'm relaxing with a brandy after dinner and listening to that one distant cousin, you know, the odd one, tell shocking stories just out of earshot of the more genteel relatives. And I have to confess, the 'short' list of aphrodisiacs had me laughing until I cried. I found the chapter on corn to be astounding in its scope and detail. I learned shocking things about honey. And much, much more. I'll need to re-read this book a few more times, there's just so much to be learned. If you are squeamish when it comes to candid talk about human body functions and secretions, notably those of the sexual variety, consider yourself warned. There's also creepy stories. But, history is often gross and creepy, and that's no fault of the author. I enjoy learning about attitudes, superstitions, medical practices and more from humanity's past. File "The Secret History of Food" next to "Ripley's Believe it or Not" on your reference shelf. Your cookbooks might be intimidated by it. My thanks to author Matt Siegel, NetGalley, and Ecco publishing for allowing me to read a digital advance review copy of this book. This review is my honest and unbiased opinion.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Book Club of One

    I received a Free digital ARC of this book via NetGalley. The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat by Matt Siegel explores many of the common foods of the contemporary American diet. Across 10 chapters, Siegel explores both contemporary understanding of nutrition or psychologically of eating as well as the historic through the work of food historians or paleoanthropologist. Full of factoids, tangents that are informative but feel like they should I received a Free digital ARC of this book via NetGalley. The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat by Matt Siegel explores many of the common foods of the contemporary American diet. Across 10 chapters, Siegel explores both contemporary understanding of nutrition or psychologically of eating as well as the historic through the work of food historians or paleoanthropologist. Full of factoids, tangents that are informative but feel like they should’ve been reined in as they wander a bit too much. Some sections felt more akin to an article like one would find on Cracked.com. Or perhaps a better comparison for the weaker chapters would be if Chuck Klosterman (Author of Sex Drugs and CocoPuffs) wrote a book about food. Interesting and occasionally thought provoking, but also verbose and meandering. Which in some ways is a shame, because sections of some of the chapters are fascinating. Such as in the development of the modern pie or how our parents taste in foods could be an inherited trait. Parts of this book will certainly appeal to those who look at their pantry or grocery store and wonder how our food got to be this way. A more clearly organized exploration of contemporary foods that keeps much of the snarky humor to the footnotes can be found in The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket by Benjamin Lorr.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kurt Pankau

    What I expected based on the title was an overview of how food and culture interact broadly, maybe zooming in on a few well-known areas. Food history is fascinating, as different societies are constantly innovating on and appropriating from each other and adapting recipes to their own staples and available seasonings. But that's not at all what this book is. Instead, it's a series of unrelated essays about the esoteric histories behind a handful of specific foods. Which is not in and of itself a What I expected based on the title was an overview of how food and culture interact broadly, maybe zooming in on a few well-known areas. Food history is fascinating, as different societies are constantly innovating on and appropriating from each other and adapting recipes to their own staples and available seasonings. But that's not at all what this book is. Instead, it's a series of unrelated essays about the esoteric histories behind a handful of specific foods. Which is not in and of itself a bad thing. But it ultimately wasn't very satisfying. There was no narrative through-line and no sense of top-level organization working towards a larger thesis. Even within chapters, the information seemed to spill rather than flow. And while it appears to be well-researched and sourced, the tone is awfully snarky. I get that the author was trying to make the work entertaining and accessible, but something about it rubbed me the wrong way--and this was probably exacerbated by the audiobook narrator's use of accents and funny voices. So, overall, there's some interesting stuff in here, but I didn't care for the presentation.

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