The Untold History of the Potato

3.79 avg rating
( 213 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780099474791: The Untold History of the Potato

The story of one of the world’s most important food crops.

From the first nomads travelling down the coast of the Americas nearly 15,000 years ago to the contemporary uses of potato starch in industrializing China, the story of the potato is both satisfying and fascinating. Consisting mainly of energy-giving carbohydrate, protein, vitamin C and potassium, potatos have been grown safely and cheaply underground in almost any weather and soil conditions, helping to fuel industrial revolution and population explosions. As global population swells and famine remains a constant risk, and environmental sustainability becomes ever more crucial, Reader asks what role the spud still has to play.

The familiar, ubiquitous potato is part of our sense of mundane normality, but its story is one of struggle, disease and survival. The Untold History of the Potato is a fascinating exploration of the biology, history and social influence of our most humble and versatile foodstuff.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

John Reader is an author and photojournalist. He holds an Honorary Research Fellowship in the Department of Anthropology at UCL and is a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and the Royal Geographic Society.

From The Washington Post:

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Using the potato as guide, mantra, fetish and structuring device, John Reader serves up a potato- centric history of the world. And a delicious, if not always entirely persuasive, dish it is. The potato as glamour vegetable? Well, no. No one has ever called potatoes "love apples" -- those were tomatoes. But in northern Europe in the 16th century, when they were still rare enough to pass for exotic, potatoes were thought to possess aphrodisiac properties. This delusion didn't last long, and was neutralized by the more widespread, equally bogus, claim that potatoes caused leprosy. Humble spuds may not be hotties, but they are, says Reader, "the best all-round bundle of nutrition known." Their roots are in South America, where the ancestral species grows wild. Of the seven cultivated species, six are still grown only at high altitudes in the Peruvian Andes. The seventh, S. tuberosum tuberosum, grows in the Andes too, where it is known as the "improved" potato, but it also does well at lower altitudes. This is the one grown all over the world, in dozens of different varieties. The Spanish transplanted the spud to Europe in the 16th century, by way of the Canary Islands. Growing underground -- bulbous, white and strange -- potatoes had image problems on the Continent at first. There was that leprosy smear. As far as millions of peasants were concerned, the subterranean bizarreness of tuberous growth compared unfavorably to the airy, sunlit wholesomeness of the familiar cereal grains -- barley, rye, oats and wheat -- that had sustained Europe for centuries. The spud did not become a staple food in Europe until the 17th and 18th centuries, when warfare was widespread and frequent. Reader argues that this was no coincidence: Disruptions and upheavals inflicted by marauding armies changed the diet and tastes of the Continent, with massive demographic and economic consequences. When grain fields weren't being torched or requisitioned, armies were camping on them or marching through them. It wasn't a matter of choice but a lack of options that really dropped the potato onto Europe's plate around 1700. While cereal grains were exposed to the ravages of war, potatoes were safely hidden in the ground and, when the tides of war receded, could be harvested and stored. This was when Europe discovered that the potato may be monotonous, but it is also extraordinarily nutritious, yielding four times more calories per acre than grain. And if you've eaten frites in Brussels or Ulster colcannon, you know the marvelous variety the potato can offer. Except for the Peruvian highlands, nowhere else did the spud burrow deeper than in Ireland, where it was grown earlier and more extensively than almost anywhere else. The Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century -- known in Ireland as "The Great Hunger" -- is the centerpiece of Reader's book. Ireland got hooked on the potato less because of climate and soil than because of patterns of land ownership and Ireland's status as a conquered nation. Like everything, the potato is political. After spuds were introduced, the landless poor could grow enough to feed and multiply on the marginal acreages they were allowed to occupy on the fringes of farms and estates always owned by someone else. There may have been no more than 1.5 million Irish before the potato arrived. By 1700 the population reached 2 million, a century later 5 million, and by 1845 it had soared to 8.5 million. Not hard to grow on "mountainy" Irish acres and easy to prepare, potatoes -- with a little milk, butter or fish every now and then -- were a wholesome and sustaining diet. In western Ireland by the mid-19th century, millions of landless peasants had no other resources than a potato garden. So when the crop went down -- to a fungus, Phytophthora infestans -- old Ireland went down with it. And in the most basic sense, Celtic Tiger notwithstanding, it has never recovered. There are still fewer people in the country than in 1840. I was in Dublin in the early 1990s when news of a terrible famine in Somalia leaked out into the world. The Irish caught a case of the jitters. Everywhere I went, people were talking about Somalia: It pushed Gerry Adams and the peace process off the front pages and talk-radio programs. Kids appeared on street corners shaking cans, collecting money. The president of the republic flew to New York to address the United Nations on behalf of the Somali famine victims. If there is a gene for famine memory, the Irish still carry it. It is hard to think of a more forceful example to illustrate Reader's essential point: What we eat -- or sometimes, don't eat -- makes us who we are, and makes history.
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

John Reader
Published by Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom (2009)
ISBN 10: 0099474794 ISBN 13: 9780099474791
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller
The Book Depository
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2009. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 196 x 126 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. From the gold potatoes at the Sun Temple in Cuzco, Peru, the muddy ones in Ireland and those grown in China for McDonald s chips, via Mrs Beeton, Charles Darwin, Lenin and Chairman Mao, to the mapping of the potato genome, the story of the spud is both satisfying and fascinating. John Reader follows the thread of the potato s story through the tapestry of human history, from its origins and evolution to its mysterious arrival in Europe, where it became a crucial part of gastronomic and social fabric. As global population swells and environmental sustainability becomes ever more crucial, Reader asks what role the potato still has to play - in this lively, readable study of our most humble foodstuff. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099474791

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 11.53
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

John Reader
Published by Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom (2009)
ISBN 10: 0099474794 ISBN 13: 9780099474791
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller
The Book Depository US
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2009. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 196 x 126 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. From the gold potatoes at the Sun Temple in Cuzco, Peru, the muddy ones in Ireland and those grown in China for McDonald s chips, via Mrs Beeton, Charles Darwin, Lenin and Chairman Mao, to the mapping of the potato genome, the story of the spud is both satisfying and fascinating. John Reader follows the thread of the potato s story through the tapestry of human history, from its origins and evolution to its mysterious arrival in Europe, where it became a crucial part of gastronomic and social fabric. As global population swells and environmental sustainability becomes ever more crucial, Reader asks what role the potato still has to play - in this lively, readable study of our most humble foodstuff. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099474791

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 11.58
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

John Reader
ISBN 10: 0099474794 ISBN 13: 9780099474791
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller
BWB
(Valley Stream, NY, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Book Condition: New. Depending on your location, this item may ship from the US or UK. Bookseller Inventory # 97800994747910000000

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 11.59
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

John Reader
Published by Vintage 2009-02-05 (2009)
ISBN 10: 0099474794 ISBN 13: 9780099474791
New Quantity Available: 3
Seller
Chiron Media
(Wallingford, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Vintage 2009-02-05, 2009. Book Condition: New. Brand new book, sourced directly from publisher. Dispatch time is 24-48 hours from our warehouse. Book will be sent in robust, secure packaging to ensure it reaches you securely. Bookseller Inventory # NU-GRD-00408555

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 9.79
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.87
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

John Reader
Published by Vintage Books
ISBN 10: 0099474794 ISBN 13: 9780099474791
New Softcover Quantity Available: 5
Seller
Kennys Bookstore
(Olney, MD, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Vintage Books. Book Condition: New. 2009. Paperback. Follows the thread of the potato's story through the tapestry of human history, from its origins and evolution to its mysterious arrival in Europe, where it became a crucial part of gastronomic and social fabric. Num Pages: 336 pages, 16. BIC Classification: HBTB; WB. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 199 x 130 x 48. Weight in Grams: 240. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780099474791

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 14.89
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

John Reader
Published by Vintage Publishing
ISBN 10: 0099474794 ISBN 13: 9780099474791
New Paperback Quantity Available: > 20
Seller
THE SAINT BOOKSTORE
(Southport, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Vintage Publishing. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, The Untold History of the Potato, John Reader, From the gold potatoes at the Sun Temple in Cuzco, Peru, the muddy ones in Ireland and those grown in China for McDonald's chips, via Mrs Beeton, Charles Darwin, Lenin and Chairman Mao, to the mapping of the potato genome, the story of the spud is both satisfying and fascinating. John Reader follows the thread of the potato's story through the tapestry of human history, from its origins and evolution to its mysterious arrival in Europe, where it became a crucial part of gastronomic and social fabric. As global population swells and environmental sustainability becomes ever more crucial, Reader asks what role the potato still has to play - in this lively, readable study of our most humble foodstuff. Bookseller Inventory # B9780099474791

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 7.72
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 7.68
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

7.

John Reader
Published by Vintage Books (2009)
ISBN 10: 0099474794 ISBN 13: 9780099474791
New Softcover Quantity Available: 5
Rating
[?]

Book Description Vintage Books, 2009. Book Condition: New. 2009. Paperback. Follows the thread of the potato's story through the tapestry of human history, from its origins and evolution to its mysterious arrival in Europe, where it became a crucial part of gastronomic and social fabric. Num Pages: 336 pages, 16. BIC Classification: HBTB; WB. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 199 x 130 x 48. Weight in Grams: 240. . . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780099474791

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 15.40
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From Ireland to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

8.

John Reader
ISBN 10: 0099474794 ISBN 13: 9780099474791
New Quantity Available: 3
Seller
Speedy Hen LLC
(Sunrise, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # ST0099474794. Bookseller Inventory # ST0099474794

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 17.04
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

9.

John Reader
Published by Vintage (2009)
ISBN 10: 0099474794 ISBN 13: 9780099474791
New Softcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller
Rating
[?]

Book Description Vintage, 2009. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # GH9780099474791

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 12.73
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 5.03
From Germany to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

10.

John Reader
ISBN 10: 0099474794 ISBN 13: 9780099474791
New Paperback Quantity Available: 3
Seller
Ria Christie Collections
(Uxbridge, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: New. Not Signed; From the gold potatoes at the Sun Temple in Cuzco, Peru, the muddy ones in Ireland and those grown in China for McDonald's chips, via Mrs Beeton, Charles Darwin, Lenin and Chairman Mao, to the mapping of the potato genome, the story of the spud is both satisfying and fascinating. John Reader follows. book. Bookseller Inventory # ria9780099474791_rkm

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 13.32
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 5.00
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book