First Foods: Learning to Eat

How do we learn to eat? It may seem like an obvious question, but it's actually quite a complicated process. Who decided that mushed-up vegetables were the perfect first food—and has that always been the case? What makes us like some foods and hate others—and can we change? Join us to discover the back story behind the invention of baby food, as well as the latest science on flavor preferences and tips for how to transform dislikes into likes.

As parents know, mealtimes with toddlers can often be a war zone. Meanwhile, the diet of many American adults resembles a kiddie menu—fries, pizza, chicken tenders, and burgers. In this episode, we're joined by NYU food historian Amy Bentley, whose new book tells the surprising story of how the development of canning, the discovery of vitamins, and the medicalization of motherhood came together to create an entirely new product: commercial baby food. It caught on quickly—but how did being raised on sweet, salty, smooth gloop end up affecting a generation of eaters? Meanwhile, British food writer Bee Wilson shares a wealth of surprising research into how we develop food likes and dislikes, busting pervasive myths and questioning conventional wisdom in the process. Finally, we reveal the magical technique that can help expand the palates of toddlers and adults alike. (It really works!)

There's plenty for parents, kids, and all the rest of us in this new episode, including the science of flavor imprinting, the age of social indifference, and the unexpected connection between the Cold War and the Gerber baby. Listen now!

Freddie and Alice

Episode Notes

First Bite: How We Learn to Eat

Bee Wilson's latest book is a must-read—she covers all the permutations of how we learn and re-learn how to eat throughout our lives with her typical insight and humor. She's also our first repeat guest: check out her star turn on our first ever episode, The Golden Spoon.

Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and the Industrialization of the American Diet

Amy Bentley is professor in the department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, and co-founder of Nicky's favorite gathering, the Experimental Cuisine Collective. Her fascinating book won the 2015 Association for the Study of Food and Society Book Award.

Annie Gray

Annie Gray is a food historian whose research focuses on the history of food and dining in Britain from around 1600 to the present day. She's author of a forthcoming book about the royal kitchens of nineteenth-century Britain, titled A Greedy Queen.