Potato, A History of the Propitious EsculentBook - 2009
The potato—humble, lumpy, bland, familiar—is a decidedly unglamorous staple of the dinner table. Or is it? John Reader’s narrative on the role of the potato in world history suggests we may be underestimating this remarkable tuber. From domestication in Peru 8,000 years ago to its status today as the world’s fourth largest food crop, the potato has played a starring—or at least supporting—role in many chapters of human history. In this witty and engaging book, Reader opens our eyes to the power of the potato.
Whether embraced as the solution to hunger or wielded as a weapon of exploitation, blamed for famine and death or recognized for spurring progress, the potato has often changed the course of human events. Reader focuses on sixteenth-century South America, where the indigenous potato enabled Spanish conquerors to feed thousands of conscripted native people; eighteenth-century Europe, where the nutrition-packed potato brought about a population explosion; and today’s global world, where the potato is an essential food source but also the world’s most chemically-dependent crop. Where potatoes have been adopted as a staple food, social change has always followed. It may be “just” a humble vegetable, John Reader shows, yet the history of the potato has been anything but dull.
Baker & Taylor
Photojournalist Reader (Africa: A Biography of the Continent) traces the humble potato from its roots in the Peruvian Andes to J.R. Simplot's multibillion-dollar-a-year French fry business. Despite its predilection to disease, the potato is a highly adaptable, high-yield, and nutrient-packed foodstuff. While this title focuses primarily on the potato's presence in South America and Europe, it also touches on Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, and China-currently the world's largest producer and consumer of potatoes. Verdict: Curiously little attention is paid to the tuber's contributions to the culinary and beverage landscape; the UK subtitle of this work, "The Potato in World History," provides a more accurate description of the focus of the text.
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