“Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat” Is a Fascinating “Throwback” Book

DaveFavorite Books, Ruminations on WritingLeave a Comment

Cover of "Tasty"


Consider a nonfiction book with no illustrations–just dense blocks of text, one after the other, broken only by the chapter divisions. The chapters, however, do have titles. But there are no subtitles or subchapters. This is why I call it a “throwback,” because the author and publisher are seemingly unaffected by the magazine and online writing styles that call for many illustrations–maybe even an embedded video–and constant reminders via headlines and subheads that follow the standard of “tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you’ve told them.” However dense these blocks of text appear at first glance, once you start reading them, you forget about the style and lack of illustrations because the writing is so damned interesting. Consider this paragraph:

“There was no single ‘first’ alcoholic beverage, cheese, or any particular fermented food. Like cooking, these items were probably invented a number of times, in more than one place. But they were profoundly different from cooked food. The tools of civilization gave prehistoric peoples a level of control over nature, specifically microbiology, that never had been achieved before.”

In reality, the author, John McQuaid, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, is documenting the origin of processed foods by way of the invention of beer- and cheese-making, and this subject is of great importance as he analyzes and explores the history of the sensation of taste. This book is fascinating and despite those blocks of text, is easy to read. I highly recommend it to people interested in food and culinary history. Buy Tasty here.