We Eat What We Are

food genes culture cover

2013. Island Press. 248 pages.

Food, Genes, and Culture: Eating Right for Your Origins
By: Gary Paul Nabhan
3 stars


The first sentence of the introduction of Food, Genes, Culture: Eating Right for your Origins was nauseating. In fact, the entire premise detracted from what would have otherwise been a good book. Gary Nabhan intimated that the reader would be taken on a “culinary journey.” While I understand the purpose of the clich√©– if we’re talking about culture, it only makes sense to travel from place to place– I was expecting a little more creativity on Nabhan’s part. Food, Genes, Culture, while peppered with facts and interesting information, is for the most part extremely anecdotal. Delivering scientific information to the general public is challenging; the writing has to be engaging enough to keep us interested and simple enough that we understand. As someone with no medical qualifications no nutrition knowledge beyond the books I’ve read and documentaries I’ve seen, I can neither confirm nor deny anything Nabhan wrote, but I will comment that the book was easy to follow. The writing wasn’t spectacular, but I don’t suppose it needs to be.

If you’re looking for definitive answers about what lies withing your own genes, this isn’t the book for you. Besides the fact that human genealogy is complex and would require many volumes to explore in detail, Nabhan’s research (and the research of his colleagues) proves that there’s no real simple answer to genetic and nutritional issues. Nabhan does, however, prevent quite a few leads for people who are of Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Australian Aboriginal descent. For the rest of us, perhaps the information and diets presents are worth looking into, but there’s no guarantee that we will see the same results as these ancient populations.

I’d pretty much only recommend this book to someone who already has interest in the topic, though it has the capacity to pique someone’s interest.

I received a free ARC copy of this book via NetGalley, without realizing the book had been published years ago.

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