Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery Oral History Project

Interview with Bee Wilson



Download recording (32.7 MB)

Download Transcription (150 KB)


Media is loading


Technological University Dublin


Bee Wilson grew up in Oxford in a family of academics. She studied history as an undergraduate at Cambridge and obtained a Masters in political science from Penn State University. Her interest in the history of ideas and the history of political thought lead her to complete a PhD on French utopian socialism. She came to food from a taste perspective; childhood memories include fighting her sister for the last jam tart and the smell of warm coffee beans at Cardews of Oxford where she accompanied her mother shopping, before heading to the delicatessen followed by the butchers, where she remembers the sight of game birds hanging up.

Food was initially more of a hobby while studying for her PhD, but eventually turned into a writing career starting with a weekly column for the political weekly, New Statesman, followed by twelve years writing for the Sunday Telegraph. While at the New Statesman, she was contacted by the renowned British literary agent, Pat Kavanagh, at whose insistence she began to formulate ideas for a book. Kavanagh eventually liked one of Wilson’s pitches, which then went on to become The Hive: the Story of the Honeybee and Us, published in 2005. This was followed by Swindled: From Poison Sweets to Counterfeit Coffee – The Dark History of the Food Cheats in 2008, Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, in 2012 and First Bite: How We Learn to Eat in 2016.

Wilson first attended the Oxford Symposium in 1998 having heard about it from a friend to whom she had been lamenting the lack of food history writing. To her delight, she discovered a whole community of food history lovers, in particular Alan Davidson with whom she fondly remembers discussing ‘every aspect of food and his Oxford Companion’, as well as Helen Saberi and Fuschia Dunlop. She has been in attendance most years since that first visit and served as Chair of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery from 2015-2017.

Publication Date



oral history, interviews, gastronomy, culinary history


Arts and Humanities



Interview with Bee Wilson