Cloth $27.50 ISBN: 9780226245393 Published September 2017
E-book $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226489230 Published September 2017 Also Available From

Dinner with Darwin

Food, Drink, and Evolution

Jonathan Silvertown

Dinner with Darwin

Jonathan Silvertown

232 pages | 6 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $27.50 ISBN: 9780226245393 Published September 2017
E-book $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226489230 Published September 2017
What do eggs, flour, and milk have in common? They form the basis of waffles, of course, but these staples of breakfast bounty also share an evolutionary function: eggs, seeds (from which we derive flour by grinding), and milk have each evolved to nourish offspring. Indeed, ponder the genesis of your breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and you’ll soon realize that everything we eat and drink has an evolutionary history. In Dinner with Darwin, join Jonathan Silvertown for a multicourse meal of evolutionary gastronomy, a tantalizing tour of human taste that helps us to understand the origins of our diets and the foods that have been central to them for millennia—from spices to spirits.

A delectable concoction of coevolution and cookery, gut microbiomes and microherbs, and both the chicken and its egg, Dinner with Darwin reveals that our shopping lists, recipe cards, and restaurant menus don’t just contain the ingredients for culinary delight. They also tell a fascinating story about natural selection and its influence on our plates—and palates. Digging deeper, Silvertown’s repast includes entrées into GMOs and hybrids, and looks at the science of our sensory interactions with foods and cooking—the sights, aromas, and tastes we experience in our kitchens and dining rooms. As is the wont of any true chef, Silvertown packs his menu with eclectic components, dishing on everything from Charles Darwin’s intestinal maladies to taste bud anatomy and turducken.

Our evolutionary relationship with food and drink stretches from the days of cooking cave dwellers to contemporary crêperies and beyond, and Dinner with Darwin serves up scintillating insight into the entire, awesome span. This feast of soup, science, and human society is one to savor. With a wit as dry as a fine pinot noir and a cache of evolutionary knowledge as vast as the most discerning connoisseur’s wine cellar, Silvertown whets our appetites—and leaves us hungry for more.
Contents
1. An Invitation to Dinner
2. A Cooking Animal
3. Shellfish—Beachcombing
4. Bread—Domestication
5. Soup—Taste
6. Fish—Flavor
7. Meat—Carnivory
8. Vegetables—Variety
9. Herbs and Spices—Piquancy
10. Desserts—Indulgence
11. Cheese—Dairying
12. Wine and Beer—Intoxication
13. Feasting—Society
14. Future Food
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index
Review Quotes
Kirkus Reviews
"A science-informed tour of the table, showing how our fare comes to us courtesy of natural selection—and, of course, survival of the fittest. . . . Silvertown delves in with gusto. . . . His accessible discussion ranges from shellfish gathering to bread-making to gardening, from issues of food security . . . to the genetic basis for taste and genetic variability among populations of food plants. . . . A tasty nibble for the bookish, science-inclined foodie."
Scientific American
“Silvertown breaks down the sociology, selective breeding, and nutritional evolution behind each contemporary dietary staple. . . . This tour—from animal to vegetable to beer—will give even the most ambitious foodie something to chew on.”
Science
“A series of beautifully plated amuse-bouche, raising tantalizing and rich ideas. . . . The book left me feeling as if I had attended a dinner party, where foodies, historians, and scientists mingled, sharing vignettes on various food-related topics. Each ‘bite’ . . . left me contemplating the relationships between genetic changes, speciation, and, at times, even the future of our planet.”
Richard Wrangham, author of "Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human"
“From the opening course of oysters to the final swill of wine, Silvertown’s account of the evolution of our diet is a sumptuous experience. Dinner with Darwin combines natural history, biography, archaeology, and biology into food stories that will enlighten any meal.”
Australian, on Silvertown's "An Orchard Invisible"
“In a nutshell, I will never look at seeds the same way again, whether teeny poppy seeds or mammoth coconuts. . . . [A] delicious little book.”
Library Journal, on Silvertown's "An Orchard Invisible"
“As pleasurable to read as it is informative.”
Times Higher Education, on Silvertown's "An Orchard Invisible"
“A gem. . . . Read it as a gardener, scientist, food aficionado, historian, botanist, or naturalist, and you’ll not be disappointed.”
Natural History, on Silvertown's "An Orchard Invisible"
“Deserves a spot on any natural history lover’s bedside bookstand. . . . It is simply a delight to read.”
New Scientist, Best Books of the Year, on Silvertown's "An Orchard Invisible"
“[A] fascinating celebration of the green world upon which all human life depends.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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