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Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent…
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Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent (edition 2009)

by John Reader

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1635123,515 (3.84)3
"Before domestication on the Andean Altiplano, the high alkaloid content of potatoes made them poisonous to humans. But since then, these perfectly formed bundles of nutrition - naturally fat free, consisting mainly of energy-giving carbohydrate, but also containing protein, vitamin C and potassium - have been grown safely and cheaply underground in almost any weather and soil conditions, helping to fuel industrial revolution and population explosions. But their efficiency and versatility have also led to over-reliance and tragedy in the face of disease - most devastatingly during the Irish Great Hunger." "John Reader follows the thread of the potato's story through the tapestry of human history, from its origins and evolution to its slightly mysterious arrival in Europe, where it became a crucial part of our gastronomic and social fabric. The UN's International Year of the Potato falls in 2008, and as global population swells, famine remains a constant risk, and environmental sustainability becomes ever more crucial, Reader asks what role the spud still has to play. Propitious Esculent is a readable exploration of the biology, history and social influence of our most humble, adaptable foodstuff."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
Member:pastryelf
Title:Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent
Authors:John Reader
Info:Yale University Press (2009), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:RABELAIS WEB UPLOAD
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Tags:RABELAIS WEB UPDATE

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Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent by John Reader

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Showing 5 of 5
The history of the potato, from its origins to world distribution, told in an interesting style. ( )
  ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
Reader's sprawling natural history of the potato requires long sections on prehistorical migration to North America, the sociocultural meanings of potatoes, nutrition and birth rates versus quality of life, the blight (of course), how thieves were kept from stealing grapes, development issues in Papua New Guinea and french fries in China, and many other spud-related topics. He doesn't just report information but takes some time to describe the methods of inquiry used to arrive at these data, which was enjoyable and helps answer my lingering dis-ease (and not lingering disease, which would refer not to me but to the potato) about non-fiction audiobooks where a person can't flip to the references. If you liked [b:Salt|2715|Salt A World History|Mark Kurlansky|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1276956021s/2715.jpg|73206], [b:The Tulip|240390|The Tulip|Anna Pavord|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1173035276s/240390.jpg|1281656], [b:Rats|9824|Rats Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants|Robert Sullivan|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1166065689s/9824.jpg|2147695], [b:Tobacco|1342413|Tobacco A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization|Iain Gately|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1182873090s/1342413.jpg|1332001], [b:Coal|9829437|Coal A Human History|Barbara Freese|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1291515022s/9829437.jpg|14720041], [b:Bananas!|2102113|Bananas! How The United Fruit Company Shaped the World|Peter Chapman|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1266543596s/2102113.jpg|2107477], [b:Dirt|517635|Dirt; A social history as seen through the uses and abuses of dirt|Terence McLaughlin|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/613CiHLm7dL._SL75_.jpg|505566] or [b:The Pencil|130748|The Pencil A History of Design and Circumstance|Henry Petroski|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1171994898s/130748.jpg|1636109], why, I imagine you'll like this book as well. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
John Reader has written a sweeping narrative that is embellished well with human history throughout the centuries since the potato’s western ‘discovery’. The book covers the potato’s early cultivation by Inca farmers; its initial contact and dissemination by the Spanish colonisers; its role in the appalling Irish famine; and its successful spread to all corners of the globe. With an eye to the future Reader reveals NASAs plans to take the potato to the stars and it rise up the ranks as Asia as the main source of nourishment not too far behind rice and corn. Somewhat surprisingly though the author does not touch on the use of the potato in the production of alcohol. The History of the Potato will be a satisfying book for experts and casual readers alike. ( )
  adamclaxton | Jul 14, 2011 |
An interesting review of the history and impact of the potato. The writing is competent and focuses primarily on politics and economics. I learned a good deal. Worth reading. ( )
  Helcura | Jun 22, 2009 |
Offputting title (to be changed for the paperback I think)

Best history of the potato I've read, as Salaman's is a bit too academic for my taste. Reader's interested in the way that history was changed by the presence or absence of potatoes, and has a missionary passion for their nutritional value and environmental cheapness.

The chapter about China's takeup of potatoes, which feed such disproportionate amounts of people from a small field, was fascinating.

A book with a similar theme, but more range of ingredients, was Visser's Much Depends On Dinner. ( )
2 vote nessreader | Aug 27, 2008 |
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"Before domestication on the Andean Altiplano, the high alkaloid content of potatoes made them poisonous to humans. But since then, these perfectly formed bundles of nutrition - naturally fat free, consisting mainly of energy-giving carbohydrate, but also containing protein, vitamin C and potassium - have been grown safely and cheaply underground in almost any weather and soil conditions, helping to fuel industrial revolution and population explosions. But their efficiency and versatility have also led to over-reliance and tragedy in the face of disease - most devastatingly during the Irish Great Hunger." "John Reader follows the thread of the potato's story through the tapestry of human history, from its origins and evolution to its slightly mysterious arrival in Europe, where it became a crucial part of our gastronomic and social fabric. The UN's International Year of the Potato falls in 2008, and as global population swells, famine remains a constant risk, and environmental sustainability becomes ever more crucial, Reader asks what role the spud still has to play. Propitious Esculent is a readable exploration of the biology, history and social influence of our most humble, adaptable foodstuff."--BOOK JACKET.

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