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Why Some Like It Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversityby Gary Paul Nabhan
Synopses & Reviews
Do your ears burn whenever you eat hot chile peppers? Does your face immediately flush when you drink alcohol? Does your stomach groan if you are exposed to raw milk or green fava beans? If so, you are probably among the one-third of the world's human population that is sensitive to certain foods due to your genes' interactions with them.
Formerly misunderstood as "genetic disorders,"many of these sensitivities are now considered to be adaptations that our ancestors evolved in response to the dietary choices and diseases they faced over millennia in particular landscapes. They are liabilities only when we are "out of place,"on globalized diets depleted of certain chemicals that triggered adaptive responses in our ancestors.
In Why Some Like It Hot, an award-winning natural historian takes us on a culinary odyssey to solve the puzzles posed by "the ghosts of evolution"hidden within every culture and its traditional cuisine. As we travel with Nabhan from Java and Bali to Crete and Sardinia, to Hawaii and Mexico, we learn how various ethnic cuisines formerly protected their traditional consumers from both infectious and nutrition-related diseases. We also bear witness to the tragic consequences of the loss of traditional foods, from adult-onset diabetes running rampant among 100 million indigenous peoples to the historic rise in heart disease among individuals of northern European descent.
In this, the most insightful and far-reaching book of his career, Nabhan offers us a view of genes, diets, ethnicity, and place that will forever change the way we understand human health and cultural diversity. This book marks the dawning of evolutionary gastronomy in a way that may save and enrich millions of lives.
"With 21st-century science promising better living through genetic engineering, and myriad diet fads claiming to be the answer to obesity and disease, this exploration of the coevolution of communities and their native foods couldn't be more timely. Ethnobiologist Nabhan (Coming Home to Eat) investigates the intricate web of culture, food and environment to show that even though 99.9% of the genetic makeup of all humans is identical, 'each traditional cuisine has evolved to fit the inhabitants of a particular landscape or seascape over the last several millennia.' Sardinians are genetically sensitive to fava beans, which can give them anemia but can also protect them from the malaria once epidemic in the region. Navajos are similarly sensitive to sage. In both cases, traditional knowledge allows safe interactions with these powerful medicine/poisons through cooking methods or food combinations. Nabhan questions the wisdom of genetic therapy, which 'normalizes' the 'bad' genes that can cause sickness but also enhance immunity. Most inspiring in this bioethnic detective story are Cretans, maintaining their health for centuries through traditional living, and Native Americans and Hawaiians, whose communities, devastated by diabetes, find an antidote by returning to their traditional foods, customs and agriculture. Mixing hard science with personal anecdotes, Nabhan convincingly argues that health comes from a genetically appropriate diet inextricably entwined with a healthy land and culture. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Nabhan, an ethnobiologist and nutritional ecologist, examines how our ethnicity determines our digestion. He explains why modern native Americans are prone to diabetes, why Mediterranean diets generally work best for those whose forbears actually came from the Med, and why we should not rely on hot peppers as an infallible aphrodisiac. He urges us to learn about the foods our particular ethnic group used to stay healthy in the home country, and to apply that knowledge to the choices we make as we face globalized victuals. The text is double-spaced.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In "Why Some Like It Hot," award-winning natural historian Gary Paul Nabhan offers a view of genes, diets, ethnicity, and place that will forever change the way readers understand human health and cultural diversity. 1-55963-466-9$24.00 / Island Press
About the Author
GARY PAUL NABHAN has been at the forefront of ethnobiology and nutritional ecology for three decades. He has been honored with a MacArthur "Genius"Fellowship and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Conservation Biology. His books and essays have won numerous awards, including the Burroughs Medal for nature writing, and have been translated into five languages. His original research that underlies this book has appeared in Nature, Science News, Slow, Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and Ecology of Food and Nutrition. A leader in the international Slow Food Movement, Nabhan grows native crops, Navajo-Churro sheep, and heirloom turkeys at his home in rural Arizona.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Sailing through Histories Encoded in Our Bodies
Chapter 2. Searching for the Ancestral Diet Did Mitochondrial Eve and Java Man Feast on the Same Foods?
Chapter 3. Finding a Bean for Your Genes and a Buffer against Malaria
Chapter 4. The Shaping and Shipping Away of Mediterranean Cuisines
Chapter 5. Discovering Why Some Dont Like It Hot: Is It a Matter of Taste?
Chapter 6. Dealing with Migration Headaches Should We Change Places, Diets, or Genes?
Chapter 7. Rooting Out the Causes of Disease Why Diabetes Is So Common among Desert-Dwellers?
Chapter 8. Reconnecting the Health of the People with the Health of the Land: How Hawaiians Are Curing Themselves
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