Nature, it has been said, invites us to eat by appetite and rewards by flavour. But what exactly are flavours? Why are some so pleasing while others are not? Delicious is a supremely entertaining foray into the heart of such questions.
With generous helpings of warmth and wit, Rob Dunn and Monica Sanchez offer bold new perspectives on why food is enjoyable and how the pursuit of delicious flavours has guided the course of human history. They consider the role that flavour may have played in the invention of the first tools, the extinction of giant mammals, the evolution of the world's most delicious and fatty fruits, the creation of beer, and our own sociality. Along the way, you will learn about the taste receptors you didn't even know you had, the best way to ferment a mastodon, the relationship between Paleolithic art and cheese, and much more.
Blending irresistible storytelling with the latest science, Delicious is a deep history of flavour that will transform the way you think about human evolution and the gustatory pleasures of the foods we eat.
Rob Dunn is professor of applied ecology at North Carolina State University and in the Center for Evolutionary Hologenomics at the University of Copenhagen. His books include Never Home Alone.
Monica Sanchez is a medical anthropologist who studies the cultural aspects of health and well-being. Rob and Monica live in Raleigh, North Carolina.
"Engrossing and novel [...] [a] fascinating and fact-filled book."
– Marc Bekoff, Psychology Today
"An eye-opening and mouth-watering new book."
– Bill Thompson, The Post and Courier
"Dunn and Sanchez are indeed the perfect hosts, guiding readers, with humor and expertise, through a feast of entertaining anecdotes in fields such as ecology, agriculture, psychology, art and chemistry."
– Grace Rajendran, Shelf Awareness
"Our hosts at this empirical dinner party envision a new future for the study of flavor, with seats for the curious of every stripe [...] A persuasive, entertaining argument about how our avid pursuit of deliciousness helped shape our evolutionary path."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Fascinating, unusual and truly 'delicious' (in more than one sense)"
– Vitali Vitaliev, Engineering and Technology
"Dunn and Sanchez are scrupulous in the way they present their evidence and arguments [...] a charming book."
– Simon Ings, New Scientist
"Rob Dunn and Monica Sanchez's beautifully vibrant, brilliantly descriptive book explains why appreciating flavor is to delight in what makes us human."
– Vanessa Kimbell, author of The Sourdough School
"A revolutionary look at the way our appetite for the delicious made us human. Taking readers on an exciting journey into the past, Dunn and Sanchez reveal how and why we love to eat the things we do and the impact this has had on human biology and culture. You will never look at food the same way again."
– Vanessa Woods, New York Times bestselling author of Survival of the Friendliest
"Why do we love and choose the foods we do? For their flavors, of course. Yet that obvious motivation has been ignored in most accounts of human nature and culture. In this delightful and important book, Dunn and Sanchez blend science, history, and their own personal experience to make the case that flavor-seeking has been central to our biological and cultural evolution."
– Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
"Delicious is an intellectual feast centered around the radically simple idea that we evolved to enjoy flavorful food. If you are like me, Dunn and Sanchez's blend of biology, anthropology, chemistry, physics, art history, literature, and history will entertain and enlighten both your mind and your palate."
– Daniel E. Lieberman, author of Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding and The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease
"An utter delight. Delicious is a gastronomic tapestry of far-flung anecdotes, science, and history expertly woven into a story of the profound significance of taste and aroma for humans and other species. I relished every page."
– Joanna E. Lambert, University of Colorado Boulder
"Rob Dunn and Monica Sanchez entertain a surprisingly simple proposition, that culinary pleasure has been an important force in both our species' evolution and the cultural evolution of our foodways. This is so basic as to be perhaps obvious, and yet it apparently has not been widely considered in scholarly thinking. This book is fascinating, far-ranging, and very enjoyable to read."
– Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation
"The recipe for Dunn and Sanchez's book is deceptively simple. Combine questions about food with equal parts of prehistory, ecology, and evolutionary psychology. Sprinkle with fascinating stories, and garnish with chosen pieces of physiology, chemistry, and biology. The result is Delicious – a book that will inspire you to become a gourmet with an interest in every dish."
– Richard Wrangham, author of The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution
"Rob Dunn and Monica Sanchez write with the creativity of great chefs and the precision of food biochemists. This book is a feast that will not only stimulate your mind but also excite your senses. No book better brings the natural and gastronomic sciences to life while instilling us with wonder better than this one."
– Gary Paul Nabhan, father of the local food movement, author of Food, Genes, and Culture
"Delicious is an illuminating dive into a facet of the human constitution so fundamental, we sometimes forget we're engaging with it at all. Dunn and Sanchez offer an engrossing tour of humanity's link to nature through the one thing we all understand the moment it hits our lips, delicious food."
– David Zilber, coauthor of The Noma Guide to Fermentation