Tempting You With ‘The Secret History of Food’

And a list of some other food and restaurant-related books.

September 21, 2021

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

Published in August 2021

What is the connection between academia and food? Universities and restaurants? Professors and chefs?

Not sure. But it feels as if there is some association -- a kinship, maybe -- across these two worlds.

Knowing that a significant portion of academics are interested in food-related topics makes me confident that many of you will immensely enjoy reading The Secret History of Food.

The book's author was previously a professor (before leaving academia for the greener pastures of food journalism), a sort of alt-ac career journey that is new to me.

The Secret History of Food is not one of those food books that will make you feel bad about everything you eat. You will not finish this book and immediately swear off factory food, processed food or fast food.

Instead, this book about food will enable the reader to sound more erudite to family and friends on food-related topics than they are in reality. (At least, that has been my experience.)

The book is composed of concise, fact-filled and amusing essays on topics ranging from the history of pie, the historical fears of eating tomatoes and potatoes, and the origins and pleasures of vanilla.

I had no idea that vanilla comes from orchids (an edible fruit!), is named for part of the female anatomy and must be pollinated by hand. Part of my vanilla ignorance is that likely all the vanilla I've ever consumed is artificial. Ninety-nine percent of all vanilla flavoring is not the real thing, but derived from substances such as wood pulp. Likely the reason that I'll never eat natural vanilla is that it is the world's second most expensive spice. (Making me doubt that I've ever actually consumed real saffron.)

The Secret History of Food is full of stories like the origins and uses of vanilla. (And I'll never compare something plain, basic and boring again to vanilla.)

Want to learn why the food system would collapse without corn or how ice cream was classified as an essential food by the U.S. government? Then read The Secret History of Food.

You will impress your colleagues during shared campus meals with your vast knowledge of honey and peppers, assuming that campus food events will return one day.

Thinking about how I might tempt you with The Secret History of Food got me thinking about other food and restaurant books I've read over the years. Below is a list of my food-related book reviews, with an invitation to share your favorite food and restaurant books.

Other restaurant and food books that you might recommend?

What are you reading?


We have retired comments and introduced Letters to the Editor. Letters may be sent to [email protected].

Read the Letters to the Editor  »

Back to Top