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The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor

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A lively and important argument from an award-winning journalist proving that the key to reversing America's health crisis lies in the overlooked link between nutrition and flavor. In The Dorito Effect, Mark Schatzker shows us how our approach to the nation's number one public health crisis has gotten it wrong. The epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are not t A lively and important argument from an award-winning journalist proving that the key to reversing America's health crisis lies in the overlooked link between nutrition and flavor. In The Dorito Effect, Mark Schatzker shows us how our approach to the nation's number one public health crisis has gotten it wrong. The epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are not tied to the overabundance of fat or carbs or any other specific nutrient. Instead, we have been led astray by the growing divide between flavor - the tastes we crave - and the underlying nutrition. Since the late 1940s, we have been slowly leeching flavor out of the food we grow. Those perfectly round, red tomatoes that grace our supermarket aisles today are mostly water, and the big breasted chickens on our dinner plates grow three times faster than they used to, leaving them dry and tasteless. Simultaneously, we have taken great leaps forward in technology, allowing us to produce in the lab the very flavors that are being lost on the farm. Thanks to this largely invisible epidemic, seemingly healthy food is becoming more like junk food: highly craveable but nutritionally empty. We have unknowingly interfered with an ancient chemical language - flavor - that evolved to guide our nutrition, not destroy it. With in-depth historical and scientific research, The Dorito Effect casts the food crisis in a fascinating new light, weaving an enthralling tale of how we got to this point and where we are headed. We've been telling ourselves that our addiction to flavor is the problem, but it is actually the solution. We are on the cusp of a new revolution in agriculture that will allow us to eat healthier and live longer by enjoying flavor the way nature intended.


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A lively and important argument from an award-winning journalist proving that the key to reversing America's health crisis lies in the overlooked link between nutrition and flavor. In The Dorito Effect, Mark Schatzker shows us how our approach to the nation's number one public health crisis has gotten it wrong. The epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are not t A lively and important argument from an award-winning journalist proving that the key to reversing America's health crisis lies in the overlooked link between nutrition and flavor. In The Dorito Effect, Mark Schatzker shows us how our approach to the nation's number one public health crisis has gotten it wrong. The epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are not tied to the overabundance of fat or carbs or any other specific nutrient. Instead, we have been led astray by the growing divide between flavor - the tastes we crave - and the underlying nutrition. Since the late 1940s, we have been slowly leeching flavor out of the food we grow. Those perfectly round, red tomatoes that grace our supermarket aisles today are mostly water, and the big breasted chickens on our dinner plates grow three times faster than they used to, leaving them dry and tasteless. Simultaneously, we have taken great leaps forward in technology, allowing us to produce in the lab the very flavors that are being lost on the farm. Thanks to this largely invisible epidemic, seemingly healthy food is becoming more like junk food: highly craveable but nutritionally empty. We have unknowingly interfered with an ancient chemical language - flavor - that evolved to guide our nutrition, not destroy it. With in-depth historical and scientific research, The Dorito Effect casts the food crisis in a fascinating new light, weaving an enthralling tale of how we got to this point and where we are headed. We've been telling ourselves that our addiction to flavor is the problem, but it is actually the solution. We are on the cusp of a new revolution in agriculture that will allow us to eat healthier and live longer by enjoying flavor the way nature intended.

30 review for The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor

  1. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    The author provides a three point summary of his book close to the end: Humans are flavor seeking animals. The pleasure provided by food, which we experience as flavor, is so powerful that only the most strong-willed among us can resist it. In nature, there is an intimate connection between flavor and nutrition. Synthetic flavor technology not only breaks that connection, it also confounds it. We’ve been so busy trying to squeeze more food out of fewer resources, that we lost sight of the fact that The author provides a three point summary of his book close to the end: Humans are flavor seeking animals. The pleasure provided by food, which we experience as flavor, is so powerful that only the most strong-willed among us can resist it. In nature, there is an intimate connection between flavor and nutrition. Synthetic flavor technology not only breaks that connection, it also confounds it. We’ve been so busy trying to squeeze more food out of fewer resources, that we lost sight of the fact that food should be flavourful and nutritious—think of tomatoes, carrots, and chicken purchased in the grocery store. All of them are pretty tasteless. The vegetables are woody and unpleasant. The chicken requires brining, marinating or saucing in order to render it edible. A hundred years ago, a typical tomato plant was twelve feet tall and carried four or five ripe tomatoes at any one time, with a few green babies still weeks away….A tomato plant now tops out at six feet and carries as many as ten ripe tomatoes at once. That’s too many….It doesn’t have enough leaves to power all that fruit, so it undergoes the plant equivalent of a brown-out. Like a frantic parent, the plant fills its fruit with the only thing it can: water. And the tomatoes taste like what they’re filled with. Animals and people eat what they need because it tastes good. Experiments done with sheep and goats reveal that plants taste better to the animals when they need the specific nutrients that the plants provide. I remember our farm days, when the first garden lettuce was a matter of celebration, inducting us into a summer of fresh produce after a winter of more limited menu. Now, we have a whole industry that has learned to mimic the flavours of nutritious food. When we eat it, our systems are fooled into thinking that we are getting nutrition when all we are getting is calories. Since we need the vitamins and minerals, our bodies drive us to eat more of the same food in search of those necessities. (Have you ever found yourself obsessively eating cookies or Doritos or some other processed food, seemingly unable to stop? This is what’s going on!) We can’t reach satiation, because we haven’t met our requirements for vitamins, minerals and fibre. The food problem is a flavor problem. For half a century, we’ve been making the stuff people should eat—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unprocessed meats—incrementally less delicious. Meanwhile, we’ve been making the food people shouldn’t eat—chips, fast food, soft drinks, crackers—taste ever more exciting. The result is exactly what you would expect. This has been a very motivating read—time to remove even more processed foods from my diet and search for fruits, vegetables, and meats that really taste like they’re supposed to, like those I remember eating while growing up on the farm.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chrisl

    The kind of research that fascinates me. Wish I could have been the author's research accomplice. Recommend highly for folks with chemical sensitivities. Quote from chapter 1 ... "One day, we may look back on this obesity epidemic as a curious aberration in history when advances in analytic and synthetic chemistry outpaced our knowledge of psychology and nutrition." Chapter 2 ... "We eat gigantic babies. As a paper in the journal Poultry Science puts it, if humans grew as fast as broilers, 'a 3 kg The kind of research that fascinates me. Wish I could have been the author's research accomplice. Recommend highly for folks with chemical sensitivities. Quote from chapter 1 ... "One day, we may look back on this obesity epidemic as a curious aberration in history when advances in analytic and synthetic chemistry outpaced our knowledge of psychology and nutrition." Chapter 2 ... "We eat gigantic babies. As a paper in the journal Poultry Science puts it, if humans grew as fast as broilers, 'a 3 kg (6.6 lb) newborn baby would weigh 300 kg (660 lb) after 2 months.'" Chapter 3 ... "Today, synthetic flavors have infiltrated nearly all restaurants and every aisle of the supermarket. Today, there are chemicals for every need state." (Discouraging to read how the industry uses flavor chemicals to alter mood.) Chapter 4 starts with descriptions of brain activity from the perspective of an MRI scanner. " ... when an image of a chocolate milk shake was flashed before her eyes for two seconds ... certain parts of her brain became 'activated,' which is to say they drew in lots of blood as millions of neurons were fired ... MRI showed them glowing ... like coals in a hot fire ... Five seconds after the image of the milkshake flashed, actual chocolate milk shake was squirted into her mouth ... Now her orbitofrontal cortex, which is associated with 'reward,' was glowing hot. "Their food-craving brains look alarmingly like the drug-craving brains of drug addicts." *** https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/we... quote from NYT article "While food processors must list all of the ingredients on a food label, flavor manufacturers do not have to disclose their ingredients. They can add synthetic solvents, preservatives, emulsifiers, carriers and other additives to a flavor that qualifies as natural under current regulations. ..." "Some food safety advocates recommend people with food allergies or dietary restrictions avoid food flavorings because the ingredients are not disclosed, but that is a difficult task. Food manufacturers add them to a surprising number of basic items, not just highly processed foods like candy, granola bars and frozen dinners but also to some cold cereals, flavored yogurts, canned soups and spaghetti sauces and even to some apple sauces and ice creams (including Breyers Natural Vanilla)."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    I’d give this book 3-1/2 stars if I could, as I found it interesting, on the whole, but I frequently had second thoughts or reservations concerning the author’s claims. Disclaimer: I listened to this book, rather than read it, so my recollection of the material may be less than perfect. The Dorito Effect has a snazzy title, breezy style, and is pitched at wide audience, all of which I think are commendable. However, I do think the author exhibits a tendency to stand on a soapbox proclaiming the I’d give this book 3-1/2 stars if I could, as I found it interesting, on the whole, but I frequently had second thoughts or reservations concerning the author’s claims. Disclaimer: I listened to this book, rather than read it, so my recollection of the material may be less than perfect. The Dorito Effect has a snazzy title, breezy style, and is pitched at wide audience, all of which I think are commendable. However, I do think the author exhibits a tendency to stand on a soapbox proclaiming the book’s basic premise, which is that nutrition and flavor have parted ways in modern food production. A new industry, which produces those lost flavors artificially, has stepped in and flavor has been added back to processed foods – but, alas, not nutrition. Our bodies, seeking nutrition, are never satisfied, and we consume more and more in a forlorn quest for what we need but aren’t getting. An obesity and health epidemic results. You might say that Schatzker has a dog in the modern food fights, and that dog is flavor. However, I think he has oversimplified the issue, which is more complex than merely a degradation of food and soulless schilling of faux flavor. I’m an obese person who eats remarkably little junk food – and, in fact, back when I was a heavyset child living on farms eating quite healthy and flavorful food, I was keenly aware that there seemed to be something odd going on, something which seemed almost beyond my control. I realized that to achieve a “normal” weight I needed to eat less than others, get more exercise, and be forever vigilant, or the weight would come right back on. This was in the 1950’s, in an age when McDonald’s and Doritos and the like were not yet the nutritional norm. There were fewer fat people, but there were ones, nonetheless. Thus, I’m always skeptical when someone claims that the rise of obesity is linked to… well, any one factor. I don’t think that Schatzker does that here, but I am suspicious of his claims that we eat more because we are unsuccessfully seeking lost nutrients and driven by a constant barrage of artificial flavor goading us to eat more, more, MORE. I think, rather, that the sad fact is that there are multiple factors behind obesity and any one approach – eating “real” food, for example, or seeking out “real” flavors, which Schatzker advocates – will not suffice to tackle the problem. What of our sedentary lifestyle, tendency to drive where we once walked, the decline of home cooking and simultaneous rise of fast food, the overconsumption of sugar (still, after all these years, just sugar sans much in the way of flavor additives, but added to nearly everything), modern-day pressures holding to an impossible standard of beauty (resulting, perversely, in frustrated and guilty binge eating), the tendency of children to play with electronic gadgets indoors rather than blow off steam running around (in my generation's case, largely unsupervised) outdoors not to mention that their parents are far more likely to be binge-watching Netflix or pro football rather than going out bowling or dancing, the effects of a 24/7 non-stop media food image advertising blitz, and, perhaps most importantly, the huge government subsidies for corn, wheat, and soy farmers but absolutely NO subsidies for any other type of arguably healthier farming? Thus, a poor family can afford to eat little other than Doritos and other foods which are, regardless of their mind-numbing variety, basically all one form or another of corn (including, of course, the ubiquitous corn syrup), wheat, or soy. Sure, there are legumes, rice, and other foods on the grocery shelves, but they almost universally require more time to prepare and, just as importantly, more knowledge. The Dorito Effect, however, makes no mention of this appalling state-sanctioned nutritional malfeasance. It lays the blame squarely at the doorstep of the flavor/nutrition divide. While I’m sure that Schatzker is correct in saying that modern produce and livestock are less flavorful -- and who, really, does not already know this? – I don’t think there is as great a benefit to be found in a dogged search for the best flavor as he claims. This pursuit struck me as a sort of perverse elitism: it requires time, knowledge (again), money, and an educated palate. I belong to a CSA (community-supported agriculture service), yet in honesty, I am not all that hung up on which variety of tomato (and I receive at least a dozen) that I receive in each week’s CSA box. Schatzker, on the other hand, devotes a substantial section of his book to describing a banquet he has a noted chef prepare using what he (Schatzker) has decreed is the ultimate tomato, strawberry, chicken, lettuce, and so on. I could not help but think, “Oh, here we go again: a STUNT book!” (And by that I mean, the central episode relies on some novelty, like the purported Year with No Sugar, or some other attention-grabbing stunt.) In short, I was not terribly impressed by Schatzker’s almost religious quest to find “the best” flavor. I was also somewhat bemused by his attention to, indeed, devotion to, certain plant and animal breeders. He seemed to regard them with a certain reverence, but I’d say in doing so he missed a very important point, one that was brought home to me recently watching an episode of “Chef’s Table” about the pioneering chef Dan Barber. Barber and his colleagues work tirelessly to produce flavorful produce and livestock, but they do it not so much by selective breeding but by tirelessly working on soil management and improvement, close attention to crop rotation, and above all, eating seasonally. It is, in other words, a practice suited more to small-scale operations and the well-heeled clients of Barber’s restaurants. However, Barber does have a broader mission to bring these practices into the mainstream, and I assume he writes of these in his recent book, The Third Plate, which I hope to read soon. But getting back to The Dorito Effect, suffice it to say that I was somewhat disappointed that the author gave so little shrift to sustainable farm practices, the imbalancing effect of government subsidies, and ways to incorporate truly nutritional food in a practical and affordable way into the national diet. Having said all that, here’s what I liked unreservedly about the book: I loved the geeky parts. Yes, especially when it involved plant-insect communication, the dissection of modern farm practices (fattening of cattle, breeding of monster chickens, and feeding of pigs), what plants goats would or would not eat, Schatzker’s forays into various flavor labs, gas chromatography, and all the multisyllabic splendor of compounds that are the essences of vanilla, chocolate, and many other treasured flavors. Those parts of the book, I well realize, may have been off-putting to some readers, but I personally enjoyed them. Schatzker also cites the seminal book on this subject, The Ominivore’s Dilemma, and makes an earnest attempt to move Pollan’s thesis on a bit, though I’m not sure he succeeds. The last section of the book parrots Pollan’s “Food Rules” without its effectiveness, but still it is an honest effort to point the reader in the right direction. And I practically cheered when Schatzker pointed out the folly of trying to eat “organically” – for it has been far too long that “organic” foods occupied pride of place in the healthy eating stakes, when in fact there is practically no regulation or research to support such claims. In the final analysis, I must say that any book that engages us in a consideration of modern food, the food industry, and the national health epidemics that plague us is one that should receive attention and consideration. Although I’ve made many criticisms here, The Dorito Effect is an honest, personal, and approachable book, and it engaged me in a significant way and really made me think.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rob Haug

    Consider this a sceptic's review. Anyone who knows me, knows this is not an (audio)book I would normally grab. I already know I eat poorly. I didn't want to hear Big Agri and Big Food bashed, and I certainly didn't want to hear what a sad individual I am. I'm more surprised than anyone at my five star review. I think it was the cover that originally grabbed my attention. I also think this is the rare occasion that the audiobook may be preferable to the actual book. Loaded with terms like "nuritio Consider this a sceptic's review. Anyone who knows me, knows this is not an (audio)book I would normally grab. I already know I eat poorly. I didn't want to hear Big Agri and Big Food bashed, and I certainly didn't want to hear what a sad individual I am. I'm more surprised than anyone at my five star review. I think it was the cover that originally grabbed my attention. I also think this is the rare occasion that the audiobook may be preferable to the actual book. Loaded with terms like "nuritional wisdom", "plant secondary compound", "psychobiologist", "emotional deception ", and "oxidative stress", this could have been another mind numbing pseudo-scientific diatribe about how big food is killing us. There is certainly some of that in here. But, what was surprising is that the author clearly sees most of our food habits as stemming from the best of intentions. At one point he even says that a billion people would have starved without the efforts of Big Food. He doesn't excuse what they have done, so much as suggest new things that could be done to continue to feed our world with healthier, tastier food. I found myself smiling and laughing throughout at many of his phrases and descriptions. For example: "It's legs are so short and plump that chickens, which were once agile goose steppers, now waddle, and it's breasts are so broad and thick that modern chickens don't quite stand up straight. Today's raw chicken is the porn star of the meat world, sensationally curvy and expertly denuded." Or this brief introduction: "It all began with the mysterious case of the delicious urine." Even this: "Thus demonstrating a correlation between nutritional idiocy and economic idiocy", after people measurably received more pleasure from a wine when told it was more expensive. I don't know that I would describe this book as groundbreaking, but it was probably more entertaining than it had a right to be. If nothing else, it certainly got me to think a little more about what I eat and how I might change that.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    [4.5 Stars] Obesity is a rampant epidemic in the Western world that doubles as a herald for the dieting epidemic. The real shame, aside from the deleterious effects of dieting culture, is that just about every dieting fad ignores the biochemistry that doesn’t jive with its doctrines. Atkins will make you lose weight, but it will place you in a state of ketosis so that when you switch back to a diet containing carbohydrates, you’ll gain everything you lost. Chia seeds and coconut water for breakfa [4.5 Stars] Obesity is a rampant epidemic in the Western world that doubles as a herald for the dieting epidemic. The real shame, aside from the deleterious effects of dieting culture, is that just about every dieting fad ignores the biochemistry that doesn’t jive with its doctrines. Atkins will make you lose weight, but it will place you in a state of ketosis so that when you switch back to a diet containing carbohydrates, you’ll gain everything you lost. Chia seeds and coconut water for breakfast won’t stave off diabetes if you follow it up with a greasy burger and fries from your favorite chain. There’s no quick fix that everyone is searching for, but it can be a real pain to have to wrap your head around esoteric science. So, it is endlessly refreshing to listen to an audiobook that lambasts dieting culture, suggests a tragically ignored component of eating, and makes its claims based on underlying physiology. Oh, and Mark Schatzker is both funny and entertaining, which keeps this from being a scientific tomb that would scare off readers. In the days before I took up studying medicine, I did an undergraduate degree in Nutritional Biochemistry. Metabolism pathways, macronutrient use, caloric requirements, nutrient-dense foods, essential amino acids, fats, I took it all in over four years. So I can understand how it is to the dieting industry’s advantage toshrug off pesky science that the lay population will “never understand.” But here’s the genius of Mark Schatzker’s book, The Dorito Effect: he explains the fundamentals of biochemistry with such elegance that worries of jargon will be assuaged. Schatzker explains science as a journalist who did his research: sometimes it is simplified, but he rarely slips up. What’s more, Schatzker comes through with his theory, the eponymous Dorito Effect that is a great overview of a budding field of research in the nutrition community. Roughly, we need to stop taking aim at fats, carbohydrates, and proteins and messing with their balance. Instead, we’ve been ignoring a crucial part of overeating: flavor. I imagine that many readers will be shocked by what lies between these pages: a food industry that can apply “natural” to a compound that replaces cinnamon with a pine cone-extract, and foods diluted in flavor by the need to be produced at an industrial level. Schatzker’s tour through the food industry is also an evaluation of taste, and why flavor is important. Though I was impressed with the ease with which the author explains the science, it was more of a refresher for me than new discovery. With the second half, Schatzker dives in to the reasons for the development of flavor: why it was important for our ancestors to be able to identify food by flavour instead of eating indistinguishable leaves. Flavour dilution was also a concept with which I was unfamiliar but made intuitive sense when it was explained. So what keeps this from the full five stars? Well, for a book that relies so heavily on science, some of the book’s ending conclusions are more extrapolation that hard scientific fact. This can be slightly forgiven for the relative infancy of the field of flavor research. It may well be that changing to natural flavour (read: real natural flavor) may help to remedy the obesity epidemic, and it is a novel route to solving the problem, but it is unsubstantiated by a randomized controlled trial. This book satisfied me as both a foodie and a former nutrition major. What’s more, I think that this book presents a real possible solution to the state of eating in the Western world: it isn’t simple, and it requires work, but it is also sustainable and more gastronomically satisfying. It is also a lot of fun to listen to, and I’m sure that it would be just as compelling a read (that way you could skip over the endless chemical names, which the narrator reads in the audiobook edition). This is a nutrition book for those tired of nutrition books, and I highly recommend anyone with any interest to give it a read! [Review of Audiobook]

  6. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Chicken. Chicken. Chicken. Chicken. Interesting Fact. Chicken. I think I would have enjoyed this more if it has been a lengthy article than a book. I understand there's more to the book than chickens, but that's the wha the reading experience felt like to me. I enjoyed his overall message, but I had trouble getting through this.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David Dinaburg

    I was upset—outraged, actually. I felt disgusted, hurt, disrespected, pissed off, alarmed, baffled, depressed, and bewildered that industry doesn’t care about real flavor. This surplus of verbiage happens a few other times in The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor; this just happens to be the final one in the book, not special or more egregious than the others. To excerpt more than one would run counter to the complaint that a tedious pile of synonyms is unnecessary; i I was upset—outraged, actually. I felt disgusted, hurt, disrespected, pissed off, alarmed, baffled, depressed, and bewildered that industry doesn’t care about real flavor. This surplus of verbiage happens a few other times in The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor; this just happens to be the final one in the book, not special or more egregious than the others. To excerpt more than one would run counter to the complaint that a tedious pile of synonyms is unnecessary; it doesn’t add emphasis and it isn’t clever unless you’re writing a title for a children’s book. It is, however, a bellwether for the type of writing that abounds within the pages. Even the titling was an irritant; the marketplace is flush with overzealous, unsupported shock subtitles. The Dorito Effect is surprising only in its lack of depth, new only in anecdote and supposition, and replete with truth only if you are incredibly cavalier with definitions. As the Monarch butterfly’s regal coloring serves to warn birds they aren’t going to like what they eat, this book’s cover had one more signal that something unpleasant lurks inside; One of the back-quote blurbs is written by renowned anti-science physician Dr. Andrew Weil, whose most flattering description is “far more subtl[e] than the ham-handed Dr. Oz." A more-subtle Dr. Oz is still…Dr. Oz…but the book does make some compelling arguments and pull a few salient points, even if the narrative tone tends to err on the unpleasant side of casual flippancy:Food is complicated. And when a species that delights in one-word answers faces a problem as complex but crucial as food, the result is not surprising: a decades-long kangaroo court in which we keep putting the latest evil nutrient on trial. The truth is, it would all be so much simpler if it really were just sugar’s fault. Yes, food is complicated. And so is people’s relationship with food. The European Food Information Council conducted a study into food choice; among the six determinants, biological determinants such as hunger, appetite and taste were but one. Under economic determinants there were cost, income, and availability; under physical determinants access, education, preparatory skills such as cooking, and available time—for both shopping, nutritional research, and cooking all played a part; culture, family, peers, and meal patterns all fall under social determinants; mood, stress, and guilt were investigated under psychological determinants. The Dorito Effect exists in a vacuum, eschewing all determinants except for a single biological drive—taste. The argument for taste is propped up mostly by animal studies, which take up at least a third of the text; overreaching statements like, “Flavor all comes down to one thing: feelings. Animals desire particular foods” abound, which is all well and good if biological determinants were the sole cause of human consumption as in most of the animal studies referenced. But The Dorito Effect doesn’t even pay lip service to the dozen or so obvious issues surrounding a McDonald’s Happy Meal: wrapped in a colorful box, it also contains a toy and has been used by millions of families as an affordable reward for their children for earning high marks in school or as an incentive for waking up for 5am for swim practice. In an outdoor pool. In April. In Upstate New York. (Okay, that one may have been specific to me). Nor does the book ever acknowledge the association that a Chuck E. Cheese’s pizza party—where anthropomorphic animatronic creatures sing to a boy or girl while he or she gets all the attention, all the praise, and presents!—might bind the joy of feeling special with the smell of melted cheese and baked pepperoni. Or the rush of processed sugar and blue-raspberry flavoring from the lollipop he or she earned from acting brave before getting a shot at the doctor’s office might create a strong desire for a sugar rush before potentially scary situations later in life. Or, perhaps, intense feeling of safety and love the first bite into a silver dollar pancake unleashes—a home-sick-from-school-breakfast-in-bed-only taste—might bring back, a contemporary suburban American version of Proust and his madeleine. These are but a scant few examples of how culture and society have wrapped themselves around our diets; there is so much more to human nutrition and craving-consumption variance than, “What nutrients do we lack so we know what to eat?” Even the counter-examples listed have focused solely on psychological determinants; a comprehensive list of hypothetical human determinants for diet would be, well, a European Food Information Council study, not a book review. “Animals eat what they need because what they need tastes good [to them]” is the exact type of reductionist argument that the opening section The Dorito Effect purports to rail against—it is “sugar is to blame” wrapped in a shiny new box. As if it were not enough to completely gloss over the entirety of human emotional and mental connection to eating—removing a vast history of culturalization and ritualization that food has undergone over millennia—and reducing humanity to animalistic consumption of nutrients—which, if you swap “calories” for “nutrients” is an argument the author himself undercuts—there is absolutely no mention of the socioeconomic burdens of nutrition. In fact, there is elitism and shaming, written in a smug tone that is simply unenjoyable to read: Speaking of deliciousness, if humans really are calorie zombies, then shouldn’t Big Macs, ice cream bars, soft drinks, and the caramel fountain at Golden Corral be the very pinnacle of culinary gratification? And rich people should all be fat because, as the calorie zombies with the biggest wallets, they can afford the most calories. (Statistically, they are skinnier.) The restaurants that serve the most expensive and, one presumes, the most pleasurable food are not filled with extraordinarily obese clientele in the throes of epic food binges. Fine restaurants feature trim diners, a good deal of whom do not seem to be in it just for the calories. They order small pieces of raw oily fish that, it just so happens, feature brain-healthy omega-3s. They relish just-picked asparagus, say, or sautéed langoustine next to pearly drops of emulsified oyster sprinkled with crumbled seaweed. As they eat these expensive small portions, they do not sit there silently fending off cravings for stuffed-crust pizza and bottomless Dr Pepper. Given the choice between oily raw fish and stuffed-crust pizza, a striking percentage would opt for the fish. The line cooks in fine restaurants—men and women who have devoted themselves to the pursuit of gustatory joy—have unfettered access to food in the top 1 percent of delectability, and yet, strangely, they keep their consumption in check. If it’s corpulence you want, you won’t find much of it at a restaurant with a three-month wait for reservations. You will find it at Denny’s. Ignoring the fact that langoustines are garbage-eating ocean bugs that were only the purview of the poor two-hundred years ago and have been rebranded as a delicacy by the very industry that “doesn’t care about real flavor,” the author discusses two times where he himself opts for the maligned “pinnacle of human cuisine”:I find myself continuing to consume certain foods even though I am no longer hungry. It happened again at a McDonald’s in northern Vermont, where, on a family road trip, we pulled off the highway and I ordered a Big Mac, Coke, and medium fries, and downed all 1,120 calories in maybe three minutes. I wanted more. He went went to fast-food restaurant with his family on a road trip because it was convenient and he has young children; standard to the point of being clichéd. This could have been the opportunity for the book to discuss the social reasons why McDonald’s might be relevant to our culture—hungry children, financial concerns, travel-based ignorance of local cuisine, ease of access—and instead he chooses to write a personal anecdote to how he ordered another burger and then, looking at all the overweight people in the McDonald’s, threw it away in disgust after eating only half. The very essence of an insubstantial story, the written equivalent of “empty calories.” The next anecdote has enough similarity to the first that and a writer who less interested supporting his pre-established theory may have contrasted the two and unearthed some interesting questions:Forty-five minutes earlier, I had pulled off the interstate in Palo Alto to satisfy the need state of extreme hunger. I pulled in to a strip mall and grabbed a slice of pizza, a standard North American corruption of too much crust and industrial mozzarella. It tasted good going down, but the megaload of carb and fat induced negative post-ingestive feedback and I pulled back onto I-101 feeling bloated, exhausted, and mentally fogged.The 101 can be a food desert—why not make mention that access is a crucial aspect of diet, much like in the McDonald’s story? The author was on a trip in a car and couldn’t find any other food; a pattern is emerging around the convenience of being able to feed yourself when you’re away from home. Yet failing to plan how to eat isn’t a failure of “the flavor industry;” it is an endemic issue of a society that is always in motion, or a symptom of a lack of time in the traveler—to research healthy options, to pack a lunch—or a physical restriction because there simply isn’t enough of a demand right off the highway to support anything other than pizzarias. The Denny’s jibe—“you will find [corpulence] at Denny’s”—further underscores that it is not ignorance of the socioeconomic impact on diet and nutrition at work in The Dorito Effect, but an active contempt:Because what the heirloom [tomato] has also proved is that extraordinarily flavorful ingredients are expensive. The reason, alas, is yield. Even if every one of us from the lower middle class right on up to the 1 percent spent more on food to pay for those heirloom tomatoes, strawberries, corn, wheat, and chickens that cost $30—a never-gonna-happen if—we still wouldn’t have heirloom flavor in the quantity we need. There isn’t enough land.The colloquial “never-gonna-happen” phrasing makes it seem like a folksy choice to be frugal rather than a necessity based on circumstance or mental state or—harkening back to the author’s own car trips—convenience. And the specter of impossibility—that we do not have enough arable land to feed the world—is mentioned more than once:The story of the last fifty to one hundred years of agriculture is the story of massive, world-changing leaps in yield. The explosion in productivity has been so miraculous there’s even a term for it: the green revolution….What, you might wonder, are plants replacing all those nutrients with? If we’re harvesting millions of pounds of broccoli and that broccoli has less calcium and magnesium in it, what’s taking their place?With nary a hint of foreshadowing or an iota of acknowledgement that these statements will be completely contradicted near the conclusion of the book, it appears obvious what The Dorito Effect thinks about industrial agriculture versus small-scale, heirloom produce. And then, abruptly: Harry Klee has delivered the best news in agriculture since the Chicken of Tomorrow contest: Yield does not have to come at the expense of flavor. The tradeoff between quantity and quality, the two most defining traits in agriculture, is not a zero-sum game. You can have both. ... Tomatoes didn’t get bland as a direct and unavoidable cost of crop size getting bigger. The got bland because in the race to breed big crops that were disease resistant, hardy, and made it store shelves without getting bruised, flavor just lost. So you can have your cake and eat it too. All of that talk about pricing out the poor and running out of land were scare tactics, meant only to further shine the golden halo of industrial solutionism. That’s simply despicable. To make such a tactic palatable, all that was required was to mention—during the fearmongering scenes—that there may be a solution already in the works. But rather than add an honest clarity to a sincere concern, The Dorito Effect spends its time lingering over its cake—making the reader think that only smaller portions of “real” food can save the planet—until, voila, you can have industrial agriculture after all! Then comes the eating of the cake—literally. The entire final chapter is self-indulgent at best and a filler to meet page-limit obligations at worst. Ten percent of an already sparse book is spent listing the preparatory steps of the author’s attempt to personally put together a dinner party celebrating “real flavor.” This involves shipping produce, sending invitations to the professionals that he had interviewed for the book, and ruminating on how sustained one feels after such a feast. It was the closest The Dorito Effect ever got to discussing human consumption of food as a culture-based ritual—rather than a simplified rubric of required-nutrient intake—so it is no surprise that the participants claimed to walk away from the invigorating social event feeling more satisfied. A question lingers, however; given the hypothesis that things taste good to people to signify to their bodies that the food they are eating contains nutrients they need, how is it that a dozen or so highly distinguished professionals from all over the country—with regional, cultural, and general differences in diet that likely precludes being identically, or even similarly, low in identical nutrients—would all be sated to the same extreme after eating an identical meal? Food is complicated. The truth is, it would all be so much simpler if it really were just flavor’s fault.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm

    I'll still want Doritos though... The information in the book is probably not going to be too shocking for anyone who takes an interest in what goes into our food, why flavors are the way they are, and why processed foods are bad. Author Schatzker takes the reader though histories, experiments and stories of how and why we have changed what we eat and why we now have such high prevalence of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.   But I couldn't help but find the book very disjointed. We star I'll still want Doritos though... The information in the book is probably not going to be too shocking for anyone who takes an interest in what goes into our food, why flavors are the way they are, and why processed foods are bad. Author Schatzker takes the reader though histories, experiments and stories of how and why we have changed what we eat and why we now have such high prevalence of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.   But I couldn't help but find the book very disjointed. We start off with a history of Weight Watchers, then move into how flavor and the birth of Doritos change what humans like to eat and the tastes that go with it. As the author says, "flavor matters." Perhaps that's why there are so many odd recipe combinations to mix together different tastes and textures.   Unsurprisingly, I wasn't shocked when I found the author is a journalist. I still don't know what it is, but books by journalists rarely sit well with me and that's the case here. My interest just waxed and waned and I found I just did not care as much as the I did when I first head about the book's premise. Overall I found the book a real struggle to get through.   Personally after I read this I thought of Michael Moss's 'Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us' as a another book with similar themes and thought was much better. Library for this one.  

  9. 5 out of 5

    KatieMc

    Opps. Library book got returned before I could write a review and my bookmarks are lost so I don't have all my bookmarked notes. Review from memory. The Dorito Effect is an interesting take on food, nutrition and our love of eating things we shouldn't. The premise that fresh food has been engineered for maximum yield and flavor has been lost. No controversy there, we all know that those beautiful unblemished red tomatoes tastes like cardboard. As a result, we add flavors, like that addictive che Opps. Library book got returned before I could write a review and my bookmarks are lost so I don't have all my bookmarked notes. Review from memory. The Dorito Effect is an interesting take on food, nutrition and our love of eating things we shouldn't. The premise that fresh food has been engineered for maximum yield and flavor has been lost. No controversy there, we all know that those beautiful unblemished red tomatoes tastes like cardboard. As a result, we add flavors, like that addictive cheesy stuff on Cheetos. Historically flavor meant nutrition and our inclination seek variety of flavors is beneficial because it led to balanced nutrition. However, vitamin supplements and flavored foods confuse this flavor/nutrition association. The good news is that technology got us into this mess, and the author things that technology get us out of this mess. Audiobook gripe - don't refer to the book as an audiobook! I don't know who thinks its a good idea, but it sounds really stupid, especially when you refer to the spine of the audiobook. Audiobook narrator comment - squeeeee, Adrien English read me this book. Update - free the week of 7/13-19/2017 at: http://www.audiobooksync.com/books/th...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Pretty interesting read about the surprising (or maybe not so surprising) things that go into our food. The basic premise is that farmers and business owners have conspired to make food a lot more profitable, making it very bland in the process. We can buy huge chickens, bright red tomatoes, and many other "improved" food items in the grocery stores, but these "improvements" have come at the cost of flavor, so scientists have come up with all sorts of additives to make our food taste more like t Pretty interesting read about the surprising (or maybe not so surprising) things that go into our food. The basic premise is that farmers and business owners have conspired to make food a lot more profitable, making it very bland in the process. We can buy huge chickens, bright red tomatoes, and many other "improved" food items in the grocery stores, but these "improvements" have come at the cost of flavor, so scientists have come up with all sorts of additives to make our food taste more like the food it is supposed to be. Strawberries become "strawberry-er". Vanilla becomes "vanilla-er". It truth, all of the additives that go into our food is quite scary. This book helps pull the curtain back a little bit on the history of food additives and where this is potentially headed into the future.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Vimal Thiagarajan

    Above all, avoid lies, all lies, especially the lie to yourself. Keep watch on your own lie and examine it every hour, every minute. -Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov. This quote, to me, is quintessential mindfulness. And this book, to me, is the quintessential application of this brand of diligent mindfulness to eating in the modern world of agricultural, industrial, regulatory, dietary and culinary lies. Paradoxically, if one's stance is that diligent Mindful eating is the sure-shot w Above all, avoid lies, all lies, especially the lie to yourself. Keep watch on your own lie and examine it every hour, every minute. -Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov. This quote, to me, is quintessential mindfulness. And this book, to me, is the quintessential application of this brand of diligent mindfulness to eating in the modern world of agricultural, industrial, regulatory, dietary and culinary lies. Paradoxically, if one's stance is that diligent Mindful eating is the sure-shot way to make one go mindless, this book is still recommended reading to make the stance more tenable by being informed of the potency,efficacy and enormity of the lies that surround us and occur in us in today's world. Take-aways and hard data aside, this book was phenomenal in terms of blending some great stories with facts, something that is evolving at the rate of knots with Creative non-fiction. The conception and proliferation of Doritos, the Chicken of tomorrow contest, the salt-and-pepper era and its heirloom riches, foraging vanilla beans in Madagascar,insider stories from McCormick,tales from Veneto, the tomato of tomorrow, the mysterious case of the delicious urine,incredible entomological adventures,colonial shipwrecks and nutritional wisdom, the triumph of Arugula - fascinating and truly unbelievable stories, made more unbelievable by the fact that they have been blended into a book that contains as much science as this one does. Too Good!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Nixon

    This book was fascinating. I swore off natural flavors and flavored things (including La Croix and other flavored waters... and my occasional use of stevia for coffee/tea) after reading this book and now 2 months later, I'm still very glad I did and think in doing so my digestion (I'm not sending confusing signals to my brain--flavor says grapefruit is coming and then no grapefruit shows up) and how I taste food with my mouth (your digestive system also tastes food---hence the clarification) has This book was fascinating. I swore off natural flavors and flavored things (including La Croix and other flavored waters... and my occasional use of stevia for coffee/tea) after reading this book and now 2 months later, I'm still very glad I did and think in doing so my digestion (I'm not sending confusing signals to my brain--flavor says grapefruit is coming and then no grapefruit shows up) and how I taste food with my mouth (your digestive system also tastes food---hence the clarification) has improved. Tastiness (or palatability, to use the technical term) is not an inherent characteristic we associate with food, but one I've argued we should (eat foods you find deeply satisfying...and eat them with respect). This book is a long meditation on that so I geeked out and read it twice. (*I've noticed that when my clients eat piles and piles of steamed vegetables even though their stomach is outstretched they still want to eat more food and struggle with the desire. Putting hummus or tahini or something flavorful on top made a huuuuge difference). SUMMARY: Overall, this book makes the argument for flavor and quality (defined here as flavorful) over quanity. It's much like how Europeans, particularly French and Italians eat--they focus on the BEST ingredients, not how we can add stuff to make inferior ingredients taste better. Indeed, most gourmet chefs I know say cooking is the easy part, finding and being able to see which ingredients are of the highest quality/will taste the best is the real talent (for example being able to look at a peach and knowing exactly what day it will taste ripe/sweet and using it that day in a salad, and if you don't use it, then the next day when its too ripe, you know how to use it in a dessert so you don't have to use sugar. OR how my husband will say "that isn't worth the calories" if he eats a dessert that isn't living up to his expectations or sees fries that are limp OR how I am, being much happier with a piece of super expensive dark chocolate over a big bowl of cheap crappy ice cream. In nature, flavor never appears without nutrition. If something is flavored or overly flavored, it is not nutritious. <-- I loved this point. Bland foods are not nutritious and we have to entice ourselves to eat them with artificial flavors that send signals to our brains they are nutritious, even though they are not... The Dorito is the example Schatzker gives: The corn chip by itself was bland and undesirable and did not sell HOWEVER when someone decided to make it taste like tacos, well the Dorito became unstoppable. Schatzker also talks about how "big ag" focused on profits and volume has made all of our foods (meat, vegetables, and fruits) bland/lacking flavor and it's getting worse and worse. I have always been very picky about certain fruits and vegetables---I look and smell them before I eat them. I would rather not eat a strawberry than one that doesn't taste as I want it to. OR how I will not buy any vegetable over a specific size because I claimed it was too bland or watery (this book validated me). There are also several studies on how baby goats or other farm animals met their own nutritional needs better than scientists with Ph.D.'s in nutrition who tried to formulate a diet or meal plan for them... it was wild and even included the goats eating things goats normally don't eat (I'll spare the gross details) because the detected that thing (i.e. urine) had something in it they needed. Our bodies are brilliant bio-machines our brains can't out-math. Your palate is a life-long investment that should be expanded and protected and it will EVOLVE if you let it and stop eating things made by chemists. (True of my life!) Vitamin pills are a waste of money (this I knew) and can set up a taste preference that gets you in trouble <-- this I had not considered. omg. High-quality ingredients are expensive, Schatzker admits and becoming more so, but think about where it is going IN YOUR BODY -or- just think how much you'll be saving by not buying Ranch dressing or the 10,000 other things you need to put on top of it to get flavor. Of course all of this is dripping in privilege in having access to food, being able to afford food, and being able to buy what I consider luxury items: organic and heirloom tomatoes... but the does help see how processed foods and cheap foods actually cost more FOR EVERYONE long-term we just don't see it with our modern perspective... As Jamie Oliver tried to do with his show 10 years ago.. we really do need a massive revolution with our food and farms. "Animals crave what they need because what they need tastes good" was a big "intuitive eating" premise of this book---however that only works if you aren't consuming synthesized flavors

  13. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    A brief anecdote- I have spent my entire life thinking that I didn’t enjoy tomatoes. Sure, they were fine IN things, like soups and chilis where they weren’t being relied upon for their flavor, but the idea of a BLT perplexed me. How could anyone find something with nothing but bacon, lettuce, and tomato enticing? It seemed like a good way to ruin perfectly delicious bacon. And then I started a garden, and I grew Rutger heirloom tomatoes in fertile soil that is part of the flood plain downstream A brief anecdote- I have spent my entire life thinking that I didn’t enjoy tomatoes. Sure, they were fine IN things, like soups and chilis where they weren’t being relied upon for their flavor, but the idea of a BLT perplexed me. How could anyone find something with nothing but bacon, lettuce, and tomato enticing? It seemed like a good way to ruin perfectly delicious bacon. And then I started a garden, and I grew Rutger heirloom tomatoes in fertile soil that is part of the flood plain downstream from the feed yard on my husband’s farm. They were juicy to the point of bursting, I didn’t pick them until they were perfect, and even before I popped one into my mouth, the simple display of taut skin and bright red already had me entranced. I took them home and washed them. Still burning with the heat of the sun their subtle but sweet smell beckoned me to try one, and so I did two things I’ve never done before: took a giant bite out of a tomato and enjoyed it. This was the beginning of my tomato obsession. If nothing else drew me to the garden the thought of my beautiful tomatoes would. I ate them with nothing but a little feta sprinkled on them, or lightly salt and peppered, I had tried a BLT and then realized that the bacon was getting in the way of my delicious tomatoes. (Note: I know buy bacon from a local coop, its much more naturally flavorful, and I look forward to this summers blts with homegrown lettuce, tomatoes, and coop bread and bacon). I ordered a specialty seed catalog from Baker’s Heirloom Seeds. I have so many tomatoes circled in there that I know I will have to choose, I can’t keep up with farming a whole acre of tomatoes, which is what would happen if I planted everything I’ve picked up. The point is, I’d never had a real tomato. I had just had *store* tomatoes, and those things hardly qualify. They’re picked green and hard as rocks, and as such, don’t get the nutrition and flavor as when they’re grown on the vine. They taste like cardboard, and honestly, have slightly more nutritional effect on the body than cardboard. To demand flavor is to demand nutrition rich foods. Our bodies are crying out for both, but they don’t know where to look because we constantly assault them with flavor grown in labs that is nutritionally deficient. We can reclaim the flavor of our fruits, vegetables, and meats just like we finally did with beer and wine and liquor, and we should, because honestly its an investment in health. We need to let corporations and farmers and supermarkets know that this IS what we want. We need to demand that they work on flavor and nutritional content, and that we know they can do that without sacrificing yield. I know that I am blessed because I have the money, the time, and the space to have a garden, and that I also have the money to invest in more expensive foods, but we need to demand improvements for all of us. After all, as long as we are on universal healthcare, we really are in this together, not to mention, as I age, I will benefit from a strong, nutritionally-empowered, healthy younger generation. This had been a year of reading about food and deciding the relationship that I want to have with it. Schatzker’s book pairs perfectly with Moss and Pollan, because they all tell a different story. Schatzker tells the story of nutrition through the lens of flavor, our innate biological wisdom and desire that has evolved in us like all animals to be able to tell the good from the bad, and how we can start listening to our bodies again. I’m keeping a food journal now, not to log calories, but to mindful of the effect that the type of calories I just ate had on my body- do I feel energized? Content? Still hungry? Overly full? I have found that a hunger for carbs sits lightly at the top of my stomach, whereas a hunger for fats is a deep gut, gnawing hunger. If I learn to listen to my bodies and cravings, I can give it what it needs, if I also surround myself with healthy options that it can choose from. I will say that I don’t feel that this book was as well written as Pollan or Moss, but that is not to say it was written poorly. Schatzker doesn’t have the years of experience and finesse or the training, but I look forward to seeing him evolve as a writer because the zeal and the talent is there. My real qualm is that he tried to use the big reveal trick too often, lets talk for pages and pages about a thing and THEN tell you what it is so that it has an impact. I kind of hate that in nonfiction books, because then I feel like I need to pause or re-read the pages to reflect on what I was told with the new information. Also, like, never do it more than once a book. Beyond that it was good, and my thing is really just a quibble. The stories he found and told were just as interesting to me as Pollan’s and Moss’s, but I also think they meant more because I had started with the other books and felt like I had a better background in the subject. I would recommend the set though, for sure, I think all of these are great books that every American should read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    The quest for deliciousness is the fuel that powers the behavior, the god that breathes life into the machine. Animals eat what they need because what they need tastes good. What a fascinating book is The Dorito Effect: With equal parts accessible science and entertaining detective tale, author Mark Schatzker attempts to answer the questions, “Why is so much of the human brain devoted to the discernment of flavour, and why, with ever more access to fresh foods and diet schemes are we getting The quest for deliciousness is the fuel that powers the behavior, the god that breathes life into the machine. Animals eat what they need because what they need tastes good. What a fascinating book is The Dorito Effect: With equal parts accessible science and entertaining detective tale, author Mark Schatzker attempts to answer the questions, “Why is so much of the human brain devoted to the discernment of flavour, and why, with ever more access to fresh foods and diet schemes are we getting fatter and fatter?” I found the answers to be informative and intriguing. The science behind flavour was so engrossing: Humans are able to distinguish more than a trillion different aromas in addition to the tongue-sensed flavours of sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami, and the little-understood kokumi. Obviously, this much evolutionary devotion to taste must mean something important is involved. Like the author, I had long thought that humans were simply programmed to crave calorie-rich foods, like sugar and fats, but it's really not that simple (or else we'd all be drinking pure sugar water and eating the fat instead of the muscle on our steaks). Demonstrating through experiments that animals from wasps to sheep to humans will unconsciously prefer foods that provide micronutrients that they've been deprived of, Schatzker proves that at the cell level, our bodies understand what it is we need to eat and we seek these foods based on the elemental flavours and scant aromas that we can't possibly be conscious of them possessing. Like some pregnant women who eat clay, it's often the weirdest tasting foods that turn out to be the best for us (like super bitter radicchio or olive oil so pure it burns the throat), and unsurprisingly, the benefits of whole foods cannot be reduced to a multivitamin. So, if our bodies unconsciously know what's good for us, why do we eat all the wrong things? Three breakthroughs occurred in the food industry at the same time in the mid-twentieth century: The mass production of plants and animals (which dilutes the presence of micronutrients, and consequently, flavour); the discovery of artificial flavours in the lab (the addition of which to unnutritious foods – like vitamin water or sugary yogurts – fools our bodies into thinking they're getting what they need, and when the body still feels malnourished, we crave more and more of these highly-flavoured yet nutrient-poor foods); and the enrichment of rice and flour and breakfast cereals in North America (which trains the body to crave carbs when vegetables are a much more efficient and complete source of things like niacin and riboflavin). I love learning about unintended consequences – the irony of so many wonderful breakthroughs that allow us to feed more people while nourishing them less. It was an interesting observation that countries like Italy, France, and Japan – that enjoy both long lives and vibrant food cultures – don't enrich their flour or wheat and have adults that eat a huge range of vegetables. I remember someone when I was little (maybe a friend's Dad?) telling me that when he was little, he loved to pluck a red tomato off its vine and eat it like an apple. I have never in my life had a tomato that I would eat plain and that's Schatzker's main point: We have bred the flavour out of our foods (which makes us crave foods with artificial flavours, or at least drench our flavourless tomatoes in ranch dressing) and that should be ringing alarm bells because it means that we've also bred out the nutrition. His investigation culminates in a dinner of heritage ingredients – grown slowly from pre-industrialised varieties of chicken, greens, vegetables, fruit and chocolate – which was intensely satisfying for him and the (mostly scientist) guests he had invited. One guest remarked, “If every portion is small and intensely flavored, then the entire meal stays at the place of greatest enjoyment.” Sounds good to me, and if a person could get a meal like that at an affordable price... And that's the conclusion: There are affordable varieties of full-flavoured and fully-nutritious greens and vegetables available already, but so long as grocery shoppers want quantity for cheap, growers and grocers aren't interested in taking a chance on them; consumers must demand better. I am on board with the conclusion, but even if a barred rock chicken promises to be the most satisfying protein I've ever experienced, am I willing to pay $20 or $30 for one smallish bird at the meat counter? And, by the by, this book isn't a hippy-dippy anti-industrialisation, pro-organic shamefest. When talking about the human love of herbs and spices (which, as it turns out, we've been using for over 6000 years and have recently discovered to have a range of antioxident, cancer fighting, micronutrient benefits), Schatzker says: I am not referring to obscure, wincingly bitter herbal remedies from the Amazon sold in stores by people who think fluoride is a conspiracy. The Dorito Effect is absolutely my type of book and I hope it gets wide coverage: This is just too interesting and important to learn and then ignore.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I read this one years ago and even now, for the second time, it is still frightening to think that this is true about scientists in the kitchen...not cooks. Still a great read. ------------------------- Calorie Zombies? I always feel like I have to take these kinds of books with a grain of salt. But with that being said, this a little frightening. Science has moved into the food world, just for the purpose of tantalizing the taste buds even though there is no nutritional value attached to it. This I read this one years ago and even now, for the second time, it is still frightening to think that this is true about scientists in the kitchen...not cooks. Still a great read. ------------------------- Calorie Zombies? I always feel like I have to take these kinds of books with a grain of salt. But with that being said, this a little frightening. Science has moved into the food world, just for the purpose of tantalizing the taste buds even though there is no nutritional value attached to it. This was informative regarding imitation flavorings and how that alone has altered the way most Americans eat. It certainly is food for thought. Yes. Calorie Zombies!!!!!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elyse

    After reading a book about an obese family, Sugar, this was the match-up book for one of the weeks of Audiofile's SYNC program. This book was basically horrifying. How the food we eat is so bland that we pile on the fake flavors to make it taste better and it's basically just terrible for us. But we're addicted to it. Natural flavors, artificial flavors, both are bad! It's incredible and awful to think about. How do we fix this?! Buy from farmer's markets, buy from local farms, get into partners After reading a book about an obese family, Sugar, this was the match-up book for one of the weeks of Audiofile's SYNC program. This book was basically horrifying. How the food we eat is so bland that we pile on the fake flavors to make it taste better and it's basically just terrible for us. But we're addicted to it. Natural flavors, artificial flavors, both are bad! It's incredible and awful to think about. How do we fix this?! Buy from farmer's markets, buy from local farms, get into partnerships with local farmers. We need to change our eating habits one household at a time. No time like the present! Also, I did not know that the first Dorito flavor was taco. 🤣 I think this book would have been too dry for me to read. Audio was perfect. I need to listen to most non-fiction.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    2.5★ Interesting theory, which I think is true in part. Although I think our food situation here in Australia is a bit better than in the States, although we are still very subject to the Dorito Effect of adding extra flavour to nutritionally deficient foods. However I still don’t think this is the whole cause of our growing proportion of overweight/obese population. The author lost me a little bit when he started on the goats - not sure why I lost interest at that point, but I only half regained 2.5★ Interesting theory, which I think is true in part. Although I think our food situation here in Australia is a bit better than in the States, although we are still very subject to the Dorito Effect of adding extra flavour to nutritionally deficient foods. However I still don’t think this is the whole cause of our growing proportion of overweight/obese population. The author lost me a little bit when he started on the goats - not sure why I lost interest at that point, but I only half regained my interest after that!

  18. 4 out of 5

    ❤Marie Gentilcore

    I really enjoyed this book about “The Dorito Effect” which is basically how the food industry uses flavors (natural and artificial) to get us to eat more even when it is not good for us. This book was very informative. Now I want to eat a Bard Rock or Heirloom chicken so I can taste the difference between what chicken used to taste like versus the diluted taste of today’s young chickens. Recommend for anyone who wants to know more about the food we buy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ann Keller

    Interesting book. I don't think I ever realized how much goes into our enjoyment of food. I think our modern age has placed too much emphasis on growing foods which are bigger and better, but lacking in taste and nutrients. This should be a real wake up call!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker is a very highly recommended, well researched account that addresses the cause of the health crisis today as being a direct result of what we have done to our food. In an effort to increase size, and production, we have taken the natural flavor out of food. Our bodies naturally crave flavors that the current food isn't providing so we eat more trying to fill the flavor void we're missing. Focusing on mainly chicken and tomatoes, Schatsker does an excellent job The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker is a very highly recommended, well researched account that addresses the cause of the health crisis today as being a direct result of what we have done to our food. In an effort to increase size, and production, we have taken the natural flavor out of food. Our bodies naturally crave flavors that the current food isn't providing so we eat more trying to fill the flavor void we're missing. Focusing on mainly chicken and tomatoes, Schatsker does an excellent job tracing how the change in our food happened and the results. There is a complex relationship between flavor and nutrition in food and we have diluted the flavor to increase size and production. Chicken today doesn't taste anything like the chicken of the past. Tomatoes today are mostly water. "The rise in obesity is the predictable result of the rise in manufactured deliciousness. Everything we add to food just makes us want it more." Schatzker points out that the big food companies have "created the snack equivalent of crystal meth and gotten us all hooked." Not only is more and more manufactured flavor being added to things, the availability of the food with enhanced flavors is more available. "The Dorito Effect, very simply, is what happens when food gets blander and flavor technology gets better. This book is about how and why that took place. It's also about the consequences, which include obesity and metabolic disturbance along with a cultural love-hate obsession with food. This book argues that we need to begin understanding food through the same lens by which it is experienced: how it tastes. The food crisis we're spending so much time and money on might be better thought of as a large-scale flavor disorder. Our problem isn't calories and what our bodies do with them. Our problem is that we want to eat the wrong food. The longer we ignore flavor, the longer we are bound to be victims of it. This book is also about the solution. The Dorito Effect can be reversed. That's already happening on small farms and in pioneering science labs." Schatzker notes the words to look for on your food that indicate the presence of chemicals that fool your nose and chemicals that fool your tongue. "The following words indicate the presence of chemicals that fool your nose: natural flavor(s) natural flavoring(s) artificial flavor(s) flavoring, flavor. The following words indicate the presence of chemicals that fool your tongue: monosodium glutamate MSG disodium guanlyate disodium inosinate torula yeast yeast extract hydrolyzed protein autolyzed yeast saccharin (Sweet Twin, Sweet N Low, Necta Sweet) aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin) acesulfame potassium (Ace-K, Sunett, Sweet One) sucralose (Splenda) neotame (Newtame) advantame stevia." I have been talking about this book the whole time to anyone who will listen. Schatzker does and exceptional job presenting the information and scientific research in an entertaining, accessible, and informative manner. In The Dorito Effect he divides the book into three parts: He tells us what the Dorito effect is, the importance of flavor, and the cure for the Dorito effect. As is my wont, I was thrilled to see a bibliography, notes and index. Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Simon & Schuster for review purposes.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Simon Eskildsen

    The Dorito Effect added insightful perspective to my understanding of how food has changed in the past 50 years, filling in much needed missing pieces. The world around us shows what happens when chemistry and artificial flavouring outpace knowledge in farming and human health. We obsess over the ultimate spice blend, and make them incredibly complex—but when it comes down to it, we're trying to run from the fact that the food we're trying to eat in the first place is bland. 50 years ago, recipes The Dorito Effect added insightful perspective to my understanding of how food has changed in the past 50 years, filling in much needed missing pieces. The world around us shows what happens when chemistry and artificial flavouring outpace knowledge in farming and human health. We obsess over the ultimate spice blend, and make them incredibly complex—but when it comes down to it, we're trying to run from the fact that the food we're trying to eat in the first place is bland. 50 years ago, recipes called for just salt and pepper. Was that because they were culinarily inferior? Hardly. Rather because the food didn't need it. It tasted great on its own. In the past decades, agriculture has been optimizing for yield—and that comes with a cost. Taste was never part of the equation, and as a result flavour has diluted. Livestock are fed homogenous diets to the point they need supplements to survive, and vegetables boast up to 30% less minerals and vitamins than they did decades ago. Tomato taste like cartboard? No problem, dip it in some ranch dressing. What is flavour? It's information about what we're consuming. If you deplete a goat of phosphor and inject it into maple, it'll associate the two. Put it on a phosphourus deficient diet for a while, and then offer them maple as a choice of food and they'll garble it, even if it has no phosphor. All animals are incredibly efficient at eating the right foods to honour their nutritional requirements—when they're callibrated. Now humans are consuming fats, cheap carbohydrates and sugars masked behind the tastes of fresh vegetables, tacos and strawberry when none of the secondary compounds making these healthy in the first place are present in reality. Yet, our brain starts to crave it. It's not craving raw sugar, but flavoured sugar. The miscallibration of our natural flavour talent starts to fade, and we turn into carb-craving calorie zombies. Recallibrating this ability takes a long time, and is why it's so easy to slip into bad habits. The author argue we don't crave the sugar, but the flavour that's added to the sugar. Flavour becomes a piece of information that this is filled with secondary compounds that are good for us. Imagine smelling something bad, or drinking sour milk. Blandness, on the other hand, is a strong signal that something shouldn't be eaten—but when we diguise the blandness through flavouring, our brain's natural system gets turned upside down. We start craving flavoured candies instead of apples and blueberries. Nutritionally rich foods satisfy us in a completely different way, causing us to be full in way less calories. "Cooking is the easy part. The hardest thing about cooking is finding the right ingredients". The sad thing is, that we haven't figured out how to provide high quality food at scale because we haven't had the need to. Most seem completely fine with the current state, and how cheap it is. It's up to us to vote with our money.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jami Balmet

    A VERY interesting look at our modern food system and how unhealthy our food has become (and why)! Overall I loved it and highly recommend it! I listened to it as an audio book and it was great! I do wish he had connected the dots a little bit more and diverged from just taste to some other large problems with our modern food (but I understand that’s not the point of this book). I also felt like the middle got a little long and bogged down. But overall a soldier 4 or 4.5!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    my opinion: eh.... In one line I can sum up the book: "avoid artificial flavorings in 'food' and eat real, natural, and high quality produce and meat." Basically I have summed up every food/paleo/nutrition book written within the last decade with that phrase. So, having said that, this book was nothing new honestly...at least if you have read a nutrition book lately. It's similar to "Salt, Sugar, Fat" but with mentions of flavor interspersed here and there. The way the author wrote and formatted my opinion: eh.... In one line I can sum up the book: "avoid artificial flavorings in 'food' and eat real, natural, and high quality produce and meat." Basically I have summed up every food/paleo/nutrition book written within the last decade with that phrase. So, having said that, this book was nothing new honestly...at least if you have read a nutrition book lately. It's similar to "Salt, Sugar, Fat" but with mentions of flavor interspersed here and there. The way the author wrote and formatted the book had me very confused. One minute he's talking about goat pee, then the next paragraph caterpillars, then he talks about how bland modern tomatoes and chicken are (for the 1,000 time). Maybe if the book had a better layout or flow, I could have enjoyed it better.....then again....probably not. Life's too short to read repetitive, poorly constructed books.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Toni FGMAMTC

    4.5 stars This book is all about modern food so if that isn't what you're wanting to learn about you'll probably be bored. I just happened to pick it up anyway, even though I wasn't looking for it. I really got into it. It has tons of helpful information and stuff I had no idea about. It definitely changed to way I look at things, and ever since I read it, I've been telling bits I learned in random conversation with others.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jason Jauron

    A few words come to mind when reviewing this book: Cheesy. Artificial. Chicken breasts. Monsanto. Toxicity. Heart disease. Dietary DHA. Pure protein. Mental illness. Awesomeness. Just a fantastic read targeted and written perfectly for mainstream America.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Harris

    The science behind flavor was interesting... but when it turned into a soapbox lecture about palates not being refined and how we should pay more for food... (classist much!?) I was just made angry. now I want doritos out of spite.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristel

    This book is so good (the audio is very good, read by Chris Patton, won an earphones award). This book is about food and it is very interesting and based on real research. I had to get the book, because there is so much information and I wanted to gather some notes which isn’t easy to do when listening to an audio. The reader does read some of the footnotes but the back of the book Bibliography, Notes and breaks that down by chapters, citing articles that the author is using in his book and an i This book is so good (the audio is very good, read by Chris Patton, won an earphones award). This book is about food and it is very interesting and based on real research. I had to get the book, because there is so much information and I wanted to gather some notes which isn’t easy to do when listening to an audio. The reader does read some of the footnotes but the back of the book Bibliography, Notes and breaks that down by chapters, citing articles that the author is using in his book and an index. So if you like food and are concerned about your food, as I am, then you will love this book. Well maybe that isn’t quite right. When I started reading this book I was so disheartened as it seemed like maybe it was a lost cause. Scientist and industry began changing our food in the forties. I was born in the early fifties and am lucky to remember some of the great taste of foods but it was already changing. People of younger generations may never have tasted food that hasn’t been robbed of its flavors. The author looks at obesity and from a flavor stand point why obesity has risen in spite of all the great diets available. Flavors are very interesting things and this book is about flavor. This book is not all against science/industry and in fact acknowledges that we probably can’t afford to go back to a preindustrial food source because there isn’t enough land to feed everyone but science can help provide solutions. It ends on an encouraging note however it is really up to consumers and that does still leave me feeling a bit pessimistic that food can achieve its former greatness.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    I had not realized that our food supply was as messed up as it is. The quest for ever greater yield over the last 100 years or so has cost us not just overall quality and variety, but actual nutrition and flavor. Veggies, fruit, dairy and meat actually contains measurably less flavor than they used to. And far less nutrition. The research the author walks us through was fascinating. I can't remember the last time I inhaled a nonfiction book in 1.5 days. (Part of it was due to the fact he spent q I had not realized that our food supply was as messed up as it is. The quest for ever greater yield over the last 100 years or so has cost us not just overall quality and variety, but actual nutrition and flavor. Veggies, fruit, dairy and meat actually contains measurably less flavor than they used to. And far less nutrition. The research the author walks us through was fascinating. I can't remember the last time I inhaled a nonfiction book in 1.5 days. (Part of it was due to the fact he spent quite a bit of time in my hometown, following the work of Fred Provenza at USU's Green Canyon Ecology Center. It was strange to read his brief descriptions of landscape and the stores they went into, because this is my turf.) The fact that "diluted" flavor, and the resultant flavoring of our food supply (even raw meat! even butter!) is making us fat and unhealthy because our bodies crave nutrients that they aren't eating, so we eat more and more (portion creep) was rather sobering to have laid out. Especially the part where he compared our modern diet to that of livestock: part of the strategy of increased yield from animal food sources is to feed them a lot more carbs than they would eat naturally, and since all those carbs are nutritional- and flavor-diluted, "palatants" (artificial flavoring) are required (caramel flavored ground hay, corn and millet, anyone?), which then causes them to eat more than they otherwise would. Livestock grows much faster, and gets slaughtered just about the time it would start to become debilitated by obesity and inflammation-related disease. Humans aren't racing to pack on the pounds before slaughter, but we eat just about the same way. His conclusion is not all that encouraging. It *is* challenging to source truly good food. It costs more, and because it tends to be available only seasonally (not bred for transport, etc), you can only get it for parts of the year. On the other hand, Americans spend a much smaller percentage of income for food than people used to, and we have way more "discretionary" income than we think we do. It can be done, but only if choices are made, priorities chosen. I was surprised and impressed that he did not make this about GMOs. Sometimes the chatter against and for GMOs can be so loud we forget about other facets of safe, quality food. Like flavor. And I was also surprised that the discussion of food flavoring did not touch upon sensitivity or allergy. I'm chemically sensitive, and usually avoid artificial color, flavor and preservative (and all other petro-chemical creations, like fragrance and auto fuel, etc), and had read that "natural flavor" should be avoided too, but because additives are IN EVERYTHING, whether or not they're labeled, I have been lax about natural flavors. I will be reevaluating that and crafting an eating plan to avoid them more. So interesting. Reminded me a lot of Twinkie, Deconstructed in tone and scope. I'll be reading more from this author.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nandita Damaraju

    I’m a huge fan of ice cream and still remember the feeling I had when I tried freshly made mint chocolate chip at a local creamery for the first time. It blew my mind. That freshly chopped mint had a “depth of flavor” that I had not experienced in any store-bought ice cream EVER. I never really gave this subtle difference of flavor much thought, but I found myself spoilt by local creameries that use fresh ingredients and never sought store-bought ice cream after. I experienced this again with bo I’m a huge fan of ice cream and still remember the feeling I had when I tried freshly made mint chocolate chip at a local creamery for the first time. It blew my mind. That freshly chopped mint had a “depth of flavor” that I had not experienced in any store-bought ice cream EVER. I never really gave this subtle difference of flavor much thought, but I found myself spoilt by local creameries that use fresh ingredients and never sought store-bought ice cream after. I experienced this again with bottled “ginger” ale, like Canada Dry, where the fizz and the sugar overpower the very subtle artificial ginger flavor vs. locally brewed ginger ale, where you can taste the ginger in it. “Depth of flavor,” until I read this book, I thought was something that only judges on shows like Masterchef, with extremely sensitive palettes experience and mere mortals like me would never be able to understand these subtle differences. I was wrong. “The Dorito Effect” really puts much of my experiences into context and ties it to a much larger issue of nutrition. The author argues how over the last 5 decades, artificial flavors developed by large corporations have come to dominate our food. What started with a quest to make corn chips taste like a Taco, has now spread to every food product imaginable. Simultaneously agriculture around the world, optimized for better yield, pest resistance and in the process compromised on flavor. The author provides compelling scientific evidence to support the above statement with experiments and anecdotes on cauliflower, chicken, tomatoes, bananas, and parsnips. However, food has not only become blander. Essential micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) have also fallen considerably making today’s produce higher in water and carbs, and hence less nutritious than ever before. The flavor companies have capitalized on this. With their extensive research spanning a wide range of domains such as advanced organic, analytic, and synthetic chemistry with engineering, neuroscience, psychography, psychophysics, ethnography, demography, molecular biology, finance, botany, economics, physiology, these companies have created excellent mimics of the real deal. I thought McCormick only made spices sold in tiny corners of the grocery store but was amazed to learn how vast the reach of these large flavor companies was. ALL the fast food chains, smaller restaurants, school cafeterias, hospitals, and even seemingly healthy beverages and chips use custom made artificial flavors that are designed by companies like McCormick. If you breathe a sigh of relief upon reading that the food you consume has natural flavoring instead of artificial, the author explains how silly this is. He elaborates that “natural” and “artificial” are only labels used to define the process to produce these chemicals and not the chemicals per se. “The word “natural,” in fact, has nothing to do with the end product. It simply refers to the process that gets you there. If it seems silly, that’s because it is silly. It’s like saying if you walked over the Golden Gate Bridge you’d arrive in “Natural San Francisco,” but if you took a cab, then legally you’d have to tell people you were in “Artificial San Francisco.” “ The author very clearly reiterates that we humans eat for pleasure. That’s how we have been hard-wired evolutionarily and convincing humans to transform these seemingly hedonistic tendencies to a puritanical pursuit of health is going to be exceptionally hard. The author very wonderfully makes a case for how our hard-wired quest for flavor links inextricably with our need for nutrition. He demonstrates that this ”nutritional wisdom” is inherent in all beings, by describing a series of experiments performed in sheep, other animals, babies, and adult humans. These flavor compounds that we crave so much in natural foods are also responsible for providing nutrition. However, the artificial and natural flavoring solutions have messed with this delicate balance. While a strawberry soda satiates our craving for strawberries, the body only receives empty calories and no nutrition. The body, therefore, keeps craving more to fulfill the nutritional deficiencies. To quote the author, “You can fool the tongue, but you can’t fool the body.” Lots of companies have also tried isolating these seemingly nutritious components, as supplements, pills, fortified foods, vitamin waters and whatnots to improve health outcomes. This fortification has however not been very successful in improving health at large. The author provides a great analogy as to why. “Dumping one or two antioxidants in a pill seemed like a kind of blind gamble. It was like ripping apart the Boston Symphony Orchestra into individual musicians, pointing at the Polish gentleman who plays second violin, and saying, “It’s him! He’s the reason the music sounds so good.” “ Another interesting point that the author raises is that of natural toxicity, which helps limit our portion sizes. There is a limit to the number of strawberries you can eat before you feel a deep feeling of satiety. This is because, in large quantities, the very same compounds such as antioxidants, that benefit your body will harm you, so satiety is triggered with just a handful of berries. With artificially flavored food, however, the main ingredients are just seemingly harmless salt, fat, carbs, and the consumption can be endless. The author says “And that’s the other problem with Doritos, Memphis fried chicken, soft drinks, and other Doritoesque foods: They’re too nontoxic. They are so nontoxic that there’s nothing limiting intake, so we over-consume them and, over time, all that fat, sugar, and carbs end up becoming toxic.” One of the issues with this book, however, is that the author did not spend as much effort discussing possible solutions as he did explaining the problem. He naturally shuns all products that have even a hint of artificial or “natural” flavoring. To get your flavor fix, however, his solution was to buy fresh, high quality, locally sourced ingredients that are most definitely are not affordable or accessible to everyone. He also briefly talks about how some companies are re-engineering (through conventional techniques and not GMO) their seeds and livestock to focus on flavor, without compromising too much on other aspects such as yield and pest resistance, which is ongoing research and seems like a long shot for now. I would still give this book five stars because I learned a great deal about the science and psychology of flavor. As someone who enjoys eating and cooking, it opened my mind to pay even more attention to my food and ingredients, not to shun my cravings, but to seek out more wholesome foods that will provide a more profound satisfaction and nutrients. This book has compelling evidence to link flavor and nutrition. In the broader context of public health, however, I am skeptical of whether this book provides viable solutions for the problem of obesity and poor health.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I agree with most of Schatzker's points. Motivated by profit margins, the food industry has made food bland and as a result, less nutritious. Therefore, we should eat more whole foods and failure to do this leads to obesity, health issues, yadda yadda yadda. It's interesting but for the most part, nothing new for those who pay even the slightest attention to health and wellness. What's really disappointing is that the author—aided by an obnoxious narration of the audiobook—barely acknowledges the I agree with most of Schatzker's points. Motivated by profit margins, the food industry has made food bland and as a result, less nutritious. Therefore, we should eat more whole foods and failure to do this leads to obesity, health issues, yadda yadda yadda. It's interesting but for the most part, nothing new for those who pay even the slightest attention to health and wellness. What's really disappointing is that the author—aided by an obnoxious narration of the audiobook—barely acknowledges the role class plays into food consumption and does not hide his disgust of fat people. Schatzker, who tells us he has a "normal BMI," spends chapters blaming the food industry for creating addictive foods and then goes out of his way to tell us about how he lost his appetite at the sight of two obese couples at McDonalds. He details the dedication required to grow heirloom varieties of tomatoes and heritage chickens, both admirable efforts, but rolls his eyes at the public who don't want to pay more than 99 cent for a head of lettuce. We need more stories that address issues in the food system, but they would be better told by more empathetic authors. This is a book that's even too pretentious for me but mostly, it's the lack of humanity that made me lose my appetite.

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