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VINE VOICEon 3 December 2013
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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on 31 January 2014
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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on 5 December 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is very much a scientist's guide to food rather than a gourmet cultural history. But it has breadth in its 120 or so pages. It puts food at the heart of the human story.

Krebs discusses when cooking started - 250,000 years ago or much further back - and the need our brains have for extra calories so that food can be seen as a key to human evolution. He points to the poor diet of those who carried out early agriculture. He looks at food preservation and tells us that the tin opener was invented more than forty years after commercial canning really took off! He reviews the science of taste and food pleasure and some fascinating genetic links with disease resistance. He tells us how late it was that Italians grew to love the tomato. He looks at the history and science of nutrition. He looks at what can make food go wrong - where he speaks with the succinct voice of experience.

As someone who was Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council and then for five years the first Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, he is used to the discipline of weighing the evidence.

This leads him to conclusions which are not closely tied to any set political position. I heard him on the radio arguing against the Government's badger cull because it went against the evidence. Here his analysis of the evidence leads him to conclusions that would sometimes make environmental campaigners cheer, sometimes boo. I found that refreshing.

He is in favour of a more vegetable based diet, with less red meat. I hear the cheers. He quotes a study by the WWF which `concluded that a switch from beef and milk to highly refined vegetarian products such as tofu and quorn could actually increase the amount of arable land needed'. Milk and eggs have a low carbon footprint - but so does intensively reared chicken. `One kilogram of cereal produces 1 kilogram of chicken.' I see some worried eyebrows. `The UK Climate Change Committee estimates that maintaining a similar protein level in the diet but eating chicken instead of red meat could save nearly one fifth of the greenhouse gas emissions from farming in the UK'. Not an easy message for animal rights campaigners.

In similar vein, he points to the need for certain types of GM modification to enhance food production while saving carbon, and produces interesting statistics on how Europe is the outlier in having rejected GM. He is very sceptical about most, but not all, biofuels. But he is also sceptical about the resource efficiency of organic farming. He is quite depressing on obesity. He sees the value in pesticides.

He puts food safety in perspective - in the UK there are about 500 deaths a year from food borne illness, about 10 from allergies, no deaths attributed to pesticides, GM foods or additives, but about 100,000 deaths per year attributable to people's diets. He challenges easy answers.
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VINE VOICEon 20 November 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In 5 succinct chapters Professor Krebs outlines the development of how and what we eat from prehistoric man to the development of GM crops and biodiversity.

It is no mean feat that in just over 100 pages and 5 concise chapters the author guides us on an epic journey. Chapter 1 begins the story with our prehistoric ancestors and their diet, the development of agriculture to preservation and processing and then to chapter 2 with the initial list of all the different types of restaurants in Oxford - a mindboggling development over a long period of time. I especially enjoyed the discussion of why different types of food taste as they do and the ways in which food is flavoured.

Chapter 3 then moves to issues with food such as BSE,the use of chemicals and on to food allergies. The part I particularly liked here was the discussion of organic and GM food, with the author pointing out the problems of dismissing them out of hand.

Chapter 4 looks at nutrition and health and then to what I think is the highlight of the book in chapter 5 where Prof Krebs discusses how we will actually feed an expanding population and how the green revolution needs to be considered in tandem with its costs such as the use of natural resources. Finally, the author is positive in the ability of the world to feed itself, considering an expanding population, use of resources and food waste.

The bibliography is the only part that for me is disappointing because it is so specialised and perhaps not appropriate to this Very Short Introduction series. There are some very scientific documents listed where I would have liked to see something a step up from this volume with just a few more specialised works to support the next step again for the reader: obviously just my opinion and in no way does it make this great little book worth less than 5 stars
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on 13 January 2014
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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VINE VOICEon 11 December 2013
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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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Very Short Introduction series are written by professors of the subject and are aimed at provoking cross-discipline intrigue in the reader that may incite further investigation and reading - and boy, are they good at achieving exactly that; often they leave more questions than answers.

Food details the evolution of food, the when and whys. The start of cooking and the advent of hunger for fatty and sugary foods, John Krebs covers each of these broad and diverse subject with great aplomb presenting well referenced arguments. He studies the interaction of Food and the effect on the body, how it determines our health and what exactly is happening when it all goes wrong. The final section is about genetically modified foods, a hot potato for sure, but also it's relevance and importance in feeding an ever growing population. Truly food for thought. Recommended!
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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This series of books covers an amazingly diverse range of subjects and this is one that is relevant to everyone! Although a small and slim volume it is a serious piece of writing delivered in a very readable manner. It would be impossible to cover absolutely everything about the topic in one small book but Professor Krebs has done a very thorough and wide-ranging job which educates but also stimulates thought and further reading. If you eat food you will find something of relevance and interest so should read this little gem.
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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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VINE VOICEon 13 November 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The book is very well written, and succinct. The topics covered are vast for such a small book it is like the tardis! We start as expected with food history, but then we delve into chocolate, food allergy, bacteria, plant breeding and genetics and even the global trade of tomatoes are explained. If all this sounds dry or isn't; the books style of writing is such it is a joy to learn about all of it.

Thoroughly recommended book.
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