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Food: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

John Krebs
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 Sep 2013 Very Short Introductions
In this Very Short Introduction, Prof Lord John Krebs provides a brief history of human food, from our remote ancestors 3 million years ago to the present day. By looking at the four great transitions in human food - cooking, agriculture, processing, and preservation - he considers a variety of questions, including why people like some kinds of foods and not others; how your senses contribute to flavour; the role of genetics in our likes and dislikes; and the differences in learning and culture around the world.

In turn he considers aspects of diet, nutrition, and health, and the disparity between malnutrition in some places and overconsumption in others. Finally, he considers some of the big issues - the obesity crisis, sustainable agriculture, the role of new technologies such as genetic modification of crops, and ends by posing the question: how will it be possible to feed a population of 9 billion in 2050, without destroying our natural environment?

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (26 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199661081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199661084
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 11.2 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 299,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


A necessary contribution to the field. (Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

Professor Lord John Krebs is the Principal of Jesus College Oxford. He has held positions at the University of British Columbia, University of Wales Bangor and Oxford University, where he was a Royal Society Research Professor from 1988-2005. Between 1994 and 1999 he was Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council and from 200-2005 he was the first Chairman of the UK Food Standards Agency. He is an independent cross bencher in the House of Lords, where he chairs the Science and Technology Select Committee. He also chairs the UK Climate Adaptation sub-committee and is a Trustee of the Nuffield Foundation.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Food : a short introduction 3 Dec 2013
By J. Brand TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The problem with a lot of the very short introduction books is that they have to cover a wide subject in an extremely short space. "Food" is perhaps one of the widest subject areas that this series could cover, a vague subject title like this could be used to cover almost anything. So perhaps it is not surprising that what we have here is not a complete coverage of the subject but rather five essays on five different aspects of food. That said each of the essays are fascinating particularly "Feeding the nine billion".

This is a book which is not a short introduction to the subject but it is fascinating and for the simple fact of that and being cheap I would recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 20 Mar 2014
By Scott A. Mckenzie VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have several of these little gems and can highly recommend them. This intro to food is packed full of really interesting information and is great to read or use as a reference text. The books are small and would benefit from having a larger text but that's my only complaint. As an aside, we now recommend them as core text for some of our degree programmes at the University.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It is a very short introduction 26 Feb 2014
By Ross Boardman VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
What you get here is a book that is not much bigger than a smart phone. And with very small writing.

This covers diverse subjects such as science and politics. You are not going to find any recipes in here. If you want a concise understanding of food provenance, how taste can change or about some of the touchy areas like genetic modification, then it is here. Generally, this is a thought provoking pocket book. Considering the pedigree of the author, it is actually straightforward to understand.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Light and balanced 31 Jan 2014
By Jase
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A good read covering an eclectic handful of relevant topics. Obesity, genetic modification and world hunger are all in there, but in a very light and balanced style. There's no heavy preaching of the author's own opinions, and there's no high level content to get bogged down in.

A topic is introduced, followed by a paragraph or two covering the research, then a round up of the scientific community's prevailing opinion (or lack of). Then a section break which I took as an invitation to take a minute to gather my thoughts and have a sip of tea before the next topic.

This book is intended to be read (and I recomend that you should) sat in an arm chair by those who like to know a little about everything, and want to take their information from a reputable publisher.

If you are intending to read this with a view to persue further reading on any of the topics covered, maybe don't bother, and skip straight to more in-depth literature. You will find this book doesn't give you enough detail.

The all important 'fifth star' would have been obtained if there was a fact per paragraph that could be used to impress friends with, because to be honest, that's why I read it. A solid four stars for intersting content.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read across a very broad subject 13 Jan 2014
By Darren Simons TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is from the Very Short Introduction series, where an expert in a particular subject matter introduces the reader to the subject over 100 or so pages. I've read a number of these, and truth be told I'm a little thrown by this one. The problem is that food is a vast subject and although the author makes the book interesting and appealing, the book feels rushed and each chapter could easily have been a 100 page book in itself. The topics covered are:
- The gourmet ape - history of food, diet and perhaps most importantly food preservation
- I like it - why we like different tastes, both culturally and individually
- When food goes wrong - controversies (such as mad cow disease) and things like the GM food debate - I found this chapter a little disappointing
- You are what you eat - nutrition, vitamins and diet
- Feeding the nine billion - how will society manage to feed the world's population over the coming years

Much as I did enjoy the book I have to give it a quite low score, as it's just too brief in trying to cover so much. A book covering each chapter would make a welcome addition to the VSI series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very challenging 11 Dec 2013
By M. V. Clarke VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a really interesting and challenging read. It briefly traces the history of food, from hunter-gatherers through the development of cooking to present day habits. Much of the focus is on problems associated with food - principally under-nourishment and overeating, and the challenge of feeding an ever-increasing world population. There are some startling statistics about food consumption, use of water, wastage, and land resources, and some hard truths for those in developed countries. The lure of organic food is challenged in terms of efficiency and capacity, and the purported health benefits of a range of foods are shown to be based on flimsy evidence. Krebs is clear on some challenging points about the future: ways need to be found of farming more intensively without damaging the environment, developing efficient crops, including embracing GM, and eating less meat, especially red meat. A stark, challenging read.
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