Food has been much on my mind lately, as I seem to be dwindling away. It used to be that I had to be careful not to swell like a giant pumpkin, and adding pounds was as easy as looking at cheese. But these days the pounds aren’t sticking, and I have reverted to eating lots of carbs in the hopes I can join the Sumo wrestling team once again. Why we eat what we eat is not nearly as obvious as it can appear, and the history of food is fascinating (unless you read The History and Social Influence of the Potato, which my father-in-law has nominated for most boring book ever, which I question, having attempted to read Ospreys: A Natural and Unnatural History), and not just a question of taste. Public policy has come to play a remarkable and not so benign role in our diets, as we get nonsensical food pyramids thrust at a diverse ethnic population, and grow fat and diabetic listening to the advice of the “experts” who are frequently compromised greatly by their funding and academic in-fighting. At least according to the very convincing Gary Taubes and his excellent work Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health, which is a better title than his more recent Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, and also considerably longer.
It was the inestimable Russ Roberts who lead me to Gary Taubes, and he has just interviewed the author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History:
Rachel Laudan, visiting scholar at the University of Texas and author of Cuisine and Empire, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the history of food. Topics covered include the importance of grain, the spread of various styles of cooking, why French cooking has elite status, and the reach of McDonald’s. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the appeal of local food and other recent food passions.
Most enjoyable, and as you root around like a pig eating potatoes, you will at least understand why. Bon Appetit.