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Book Review: Devoured by Sophie Egan

I have a great interest in science as well as nutrition. I try to eat healthily, but realize sometimes the cards are stacked against me. Food companies are famous for tempting us with all kinds of new recipes and restaurants will present food in the most appetizing way. So I was interested in Sophie Egan’s new book, “Devoured”, which explains all the latest in food trends and how we got to where we are in terms of eating in America.

First she writes about how addicted we are to eating constantly and mindlessly. We snack all day rather than have 3 solid meals. We are so overworked that we don’t have time to make a meal, much less sit down at a table with other people to eat. Single person eating is increasing as is eating on the go. And instead of taking a break at midday, more of us eat at our desks. There is less time for socializing (no more 3 martini lunches) or taking a stroll to get one’s mind refreshed.

In another chapter the author talks about how we are buying anything with a “health halo” such as nonfat or gluten-free, and because we think it is healthier we eat more of that food than we should. She also writes a lot about how much Americans love brunch on weekends and that we don’t mind waiting on long lines for the brunch. But in some ways this is a good thing because it is more like the past where we gathered with large groups of friends and family to eat and socialize at the same time. We are talking to people on the line and usually meet with a group to dine together.

Ms Egan spends some time telling about how much more wine we drink and how that came to be. Similarly she writes about how we came to embrace an immigrant’s food: spaghetti.

But I found the most interesting parts of the book were when she describes what she calls “stunt foods” and seasonal specials at restaurants. Examples are the Doritos Locos Taco or the Super Bowl foods that are only offered around that game time. I don’t eat these things, but it is fascinating to learn how the companies do everything in their power to sway people to gobble up this junk.

I have read similar books such as this one about the food industry tricking us into eating more of their fake junk food, but Ms Egan’s book is well researched with many facts about our current diet trends in America. Again it has to be stated that everyone has to be so careful to not fall into food traps. Is that a colored dish or a white one you are eating off? This alone can make you eat more or less depending on the color. In a restaurant the kind of music playing influences how long and how much we eat. Spend enough research money on just the right combination of salty, crispy, and creamy concoctions and you will make a hit that is truly addictive. Beware consumer!