Book Review: Terrors of the Table by Walter Gratzer

An unusual book which is also surprizingly entertaining. Subtitled The Curious History of Nutrition it looks at how mankind has attempted to deal with over eating, malnutrition, diets and supplements. Finding the right ingredients for a healthy diet has involved some weird food – 1874 fashionable ladies were visiting Parisian slaughterhouses to drink a glass of  warm blood to nourish complexions; while women suffering from biliousness were encouraged to take bile beans (believed to contain nothing but coloured corn flour). Then there was Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound  – a  cure all for everything suffered by adults and children which consisted mainly of alcohol.

Even today, adulteration of food is prevalent – modern food technology relies on additives designed mainly to make food go further at less cost. Gratzer quotes a scientist from one of the largest American food manufacturers – the company’s business is to sell air and water. Modern techniques enable soluble protein to be created out of even the least attractive parts of an animal or bird such as the skin and feathers.

The book is a fascinating look at nutrition which will engage both specialists and general readers. It goes into a lot of detail about the science behind various diets like the Atkins diet, how scurvy was fought; the discovery of vitamins. Well worth reading – it can also be very enlightening to anyone who knows little about the modern food industry!

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.