Beatrice Dorothy "Bee" Wilson FRSL (born 7 March 1974) is a British food writer, journalist and the author of seven books on food-related subjects as well as a campaigner for food education through the charity TastEd. She writes the "Table Talk" column for The Wall Street Journal.

Bee Wilson

Wilson in Cambridge in 2021
Beatrice Dorothy Wilson

1974 (age 48–49)
Oxford, United Kingdom
EducationTrinity College, Cambridge
University of Pennsylvania
(m. 1997; div. 2021)
Parent(s)A. N. Wilson
Katherine Duncan-Jones
RelativesEmily Wilson (sister)

Early life and education edit

Bee Wilson has said that she learned how to cook sitting at the kitchen table, reading her mother's cookbooks, starting with The Penguin Cookery Book.[1] Wilson attended Trinity College, Cambridge, as an undergraduate studying history,[2] and it was from Cambridge University that she received her doctorate for a dissertation on early French utopian socialism.[3]

She received a master's degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania while on a fellowship from the Thouron Award.[citation needed]

In 1997, while still a graduate student, she appeared as a contestant on the BBC cooking show Masterchef, reaching the semi-final stage.[4]

Career edit

After a brief academic career as a research fellow in the History of Ideas at St John's College, Cambridge, Wilson began writing a series of books linking food with wider themes of health, psychology and history.

In 2005, she published her first book: The Hive: the Story of the Honeybee and Us published by John Murray. The Independent called it a "sprightly hymn to the honeybee".[5] It examined the human relationship with honeybees and the way in which the beehive has been used as a metaphor for human models of work, love, politics and life. It also included honey-based recipes.

Wilson's next book, in 2008, was Swindled: From Poison Sweets to Counterfeit Coffee – The Dark History of the Food Cheats. This was a history of food fraud from ancient times to the present day.

This was followed, in 2012, by Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat. This was a history of kitchen technologies, from fire to ice, from pots and pans to knives; to the spork. It has been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, Korean and Portuguese. Wilson's publisher, Basic Books explains that "Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide machines of the modern kitchen, but also the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks".[6]

In 2016, Wilson's book First Bite: How We Learn to Eat was a change of direction. It was the first of Wilson's books to address the practical psychology of eating rather than the history of food. Its main thesis is that human food habits are learned, from childhood onwards, and that they can also be relearned or unlearned at any age. "The wonderful secret of being an omnivore is that we can adjust our desires, even late in the game."[7] First Bite won the Special Commendation Award at the Andre Simon Food and Drink Awards[8] and Food Book of the Year at the Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards.[9] That book was described in the Financial Times as being "about the pleasure of eating and how we can reconnect with this".[10]

In 2020, her book The Way We Eat Now: Strategies for Eating in a World of Change won Food Book of the Year at the Fortnum and Mason Food and Drink Awards[11]

In 2020, The Bookseller reported that Wilson was writing her first cookbook, The Secret of Cooking.[12]

Alongside writing books, Wilson has also been a prolific journalist, mostly writing about food but sometimes covering other subjects such as film, biography, music and history. For five years from 1998, Wilson was the weekly food critic of the New Statesman magazine, where she wrote about subjects including school meals, the history of food and ingredients such as vanilla, tinned tomatoes, melons and butter.[13]

After that, Wilson wrote the "Kitchen Thinker" column in The Sunday Telegraph's "Stella" magazine for twelve years.[14] For the column, she was named the Guild of Food Writers food journalist of the year in 2004, 2008 and 2009.[15]

Wilson has written book reviews and other articles for The Guardian, The Sunday Times and The Times Literary Supplement.[16][17] She has written "Page Turner" blogs for The New Yorker on ideas about the recipe.[18][19] She has contributed articles to the London Review of Books on subjects such as film, biography, history and music, as well as the history of the restaurant in London.[20] Most recently, she has written a series of Long Reads for The Guardian on subjects ranging from clean eating to ultra-processed food to the history of the British curryhouse.[21][22][23]

Wilson was the chair of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery from 2015 to 2017.[24][25]

In 2019, Wilson co-founded a UK food education charity, TastEd, which describes itself as working "to give every child the opportunity to experience the joy of fresh vegetables and fruits".[26] TastEd (short for Taste Education) is part of the Sapere network of food education, which is used in a number of countries including Finland, Sweden and France and which "was created out of the conviction that taste education is good for health".[27]

In 2020, she was one of the judges of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction.[28] She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2023.[29]

Personal life edit

Wilson is the daughter of the writer A. N. Wilson and the academic Katherine Duncan-Jones. Her sister is the classicist Emily Wilson. She was married to the Cambridge political scientist David Runciman but they are now divorced.[30][31] They have three children together.[32]

Reception edit

"Be brave. Drop the diet. Make peace. If any book can effect long-term weight loss, it should be this one", wrote Melanie Reid in The Times, reviewing First Bite.[33] In The Observer, Rachel Cooke wrote that "Wilson is a brilliant researcher" and "has unearthed science that makes sense of our most intimate and tender worlds."[34]

Responding to The Hive in The Guardian, critic Nicholas Lezard wrote that "For a moment you may feel, as I did, that part of Wilson's research for this book involved turning into a bee for a few days...You pretty soon realise that there is no dull fact about bees, whether we regard them for themselves, or for the metaphorical uses to which they are put by social commentators."[35]

Writing in The Financial Times, Wendell Steavenson described Wilson's 2019 book The Way We Eat Now as "clear and vital authoritative and brilliantly compelling description of the economic, political and emotional issues around our food."[36]

According to The New Yorker writer Jane Kramer, "Bee Wilson describes herself as a food writer. That's half the story". In Kramer's opinion, writing about Consider the Fork, Wilson writes on food as it relates to history, ideas and human life.[37] In The New York Times, Dawn Drzal described Wilson as "a congenial kitchen oracle".[38]

Works edit

  • The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us, John Murray, 2004
  • Swindled: From Poison Sweets to Counterfeit Coffee, John Murray and Princeton University Press, 2008
  • Sandwich: A Global History, Reaktion Books, 2010
  • Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, Basic Books, 2012 (history of kitchen technology, from fire to the AeroPress)[39]
Translated into Spanish as La importancia del tenedor. Historia, inventos y artilugios en la cocina, Turner, 2013
  • First Bite: How We Learn to Eat, Basic Books and Fourth Estate[40]
Translated into Spanish as El primer bocado. Cómo aprendemos a comer, Turner, 2016
  • This is Not a Diet Book: A User's Guide to Eating Well, HarperCollins, 2016
  • The Way We Eat Now. Strategies for eating in a world of change, HarperCollins, 2019
Published in the US as The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World, Basic Books, 2019

References edit

  1. ^ "1000 Cookbooks". 1000 Cookbooks. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  2. ^ "Dr Bee Wilson (1992)". Alumni Profiles. Trinity College, Cambridge. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  3. ^ Sokolov, Raymond. "Back to the Chopping Board | Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen (book review)". Literary Review, London. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  4. ^ Wilson, Bee (19 March 1999). "Overcooked". Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  5. ^ The Hive. Hachette. 24 April 2019. ISBN 9780719565984. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  6. ^ Consider the Fork. Basic Books. 27 June 2017. ISBN 9780465056972. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  7. ^ Wilson, Bee (2016). First Bite. Fourth Estate. p. 347.
  8. ^ "2015 Awards: Food". Andre Simon. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  9. ^ "Food and Drink Awards 2017". Fortnum and Mason. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  10. ^ Russell, Polly (15 January 2016). "First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson". Financial Times. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Hot Dinners Blog". Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  12. ^ "Fourth Estate Lines up Bee Wilson's First Cookbook". Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  13. ^ Bee Wilson "Food", New Statesman, 17 March 2002.
  14. ^ "Telegraph website". Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  15. ^ "Guild of Food Writers". Archived from the original on 25 March 2009. Retrieved 27 July 2009.
  16. ^ Wilson, Bee "The Baguette is Back", Times Literary Supplement, 6 June 2007.
  17. ^ Bee Wilson "Smell the Coffee", Times Literary Supplement, 31 October 2007.
  18. ^ Wilson, Bee (15 July 2015). "Pleasures of the Literary Meal". The New Yorker. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  19. ^ Wilson, Bee (26 August 2014). "The Allure of Imagined Meals". The New Yorker. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  20. ^ London Review of Books. "Bee Wilson". London Review of Books. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  21. ^ Wilson, Bee (12 January 2017). "Who Killed the Great British Curry House?". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  22. ^ "'How ultra-processed food took over your shopping basket'". The Guardian. 13 February 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  23. ^ Wilson, Bee (11 August 2017). "Why We Fell for Clean Eating". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  24. ^ Duguid, Naomi. "Report on the Oxford Symposium 2015". Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  25. ^ "2017 Food & Landscape - Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery". Oxford Food Symposium. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  26. ^ "Working to change the way that food education is taught in the UK - Taste Education". TastEd. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  27. ^ "Sapere – Sensory food education". Sapere Association. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  28. ^ "2020 The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction". The Baillie Gifford Prize. Retrieved 13 July 2023.
  29. ^ Creamer, Ella (12 July 2023). "Royal Society of Literature aims to broaden representation as it announces 62 new fellows". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 July 2023.
  30. ^ Kramer (10 March 2013). "A Fork of One's Own". New Yorker. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  31. ^ Bee Wilson on Instagram: "I have long believed that kitchen utensils are a mirror on our lives. Even so, I found this eery. Twenty three years ago, this rusting heart-shaped cake tin was brand new. I used it to bake my own wedding cake. My husband-to-be said he liked fruit cake but hated glacé cherries so I baked him a rich dark cake with no cherries and chopped up dried apricots to take their place. I kept the tin all these years and used it sometimes to bake birthday cakes for the children. I think I imagined that one day I would use it to bake an anniversary cake. But mostly it lived unused on the bottom shelf of a dresser in the hallway until this week when it suddenly fell at my feet as I walked past. Obviously I know this was just a strange accident (I am extra clumsy at the moment) but it felt like an omen because my husband left me two months ago and I will never use this rusty heart to bake our anniversary cake. But when I picked it up to put it back it still felt as solid as it did twenty three years ago". Instagram. Archived from the original on 25 December 2021. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  32. ^ "Bee Wilson". 4th Estate. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  33. ^ "Books reviews roundup: First Bite". The Guardian. 15 January 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  34. ^ "Books reviews roundup: First Bite". The Guardian. 15 January 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  35. ^ Lezard, Nicholas (16 September 2005). "The extraordinary brilliance of bees". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  36. ^ Steavenson, Wendell (10 May 2019). "The way we eat now by Bee Wilson - quantity of quality". The Financial Times. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  37. ^ Kramer, Jane (18 March 2013). "A Fork of One's Own". The New Yorker.
  38. ^ Drzal, Dawn (16 November 2012). "The Science of Sizzle". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  39. ^ Poole, Steven (24 October 2012). "Consider the Fork Review". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  40. ^ Finney, Clare. "It's Not Naughty. It's Not Virtuous. It's Food". Borough Market. Archived from the original on 6 October 2015. We don't have an instinct that tells us what to eat... It's not a moral thing. It's a skill we learn.

External links edit