I recently revisited Alexandra Logue’s Psychology of Eating and Drinking whilst on holiday. It’s a wonderful mixture of the academic and accessible. Starting out from her own early experiences with food Logue leads the reader through a journey of self-discovery rooted in the scientific method.
The book is made up of 15 chapters that explore areas such as food preference, the role of the senses and evolutionary influences. Latter topics include eating disorders, gender and, in the last chapter, ‘Cuisine, Beer ands Wine’. Throughout, the tone is engaging yet serious (as befits the topic).
The book is probably of more interest to psychologists than wine enthusiasts as only a couple of pages refer directly to wine. However, the way in which Logue makes fundamentals about our eating and drinking behaviour accessible should be engaging for anyone interested in why, and how, they eat and drink. Logue quotes Savarin’s challenge; “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are” and Alice (in Wonderland) “I know something interesting is sure to happen whenever I eat or drink anything”.
Sections on specific anosmia (smell insensitivity) and genetic sensitivity to PTC/PROP (supertasters, tasters and non-tasters) should be required reading for wine educators wanting to understand individual variance in responses at tastings. As Otolaryngologist and Yale Professor Linda Bartoshuk states, “People inhabit separate taste worlds”.
Logue uses the clever device of including ‘Conversation Making Facts’ in text boxes throughout. These might relate to why porcupines get run over (it’s all about their appetite for salt), the success of Gary Hall, a diabetic Olympiad, or the amount of butter used by successful chefs in their cooking. This grounds the academic studies in lived experience and increases accessibility.
I was particularly interested in the debate between the ‘complete abstinence’ and ‘controlled drinking’ views on alcohol dependence. The AA approach seems to ‘catastrophise’ relapse and I am more sympathetic to the way in which some CBT approaches encourage controlled relapse to help people learn how to manage drinking more effectively. As with all ‘therapy’ it very much depends on the client’s profile and needs. What Logue manages to do throughout this admirable book is to set out the evidence and debates in a rigorous and balanced manner.
Logue, A. (2004) The Psychology of Eating and Drinking Brunner-Routeledge New York
ISBN 0-415-95008-0 (softback) or 0-415-95008-2 (hardback)