Potato: A Global History Hardcover – Apr 1 2011
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“As food historian Andrew F. Smith shows in Potato: A Global History, even the lowly spud packs a lot of colorful history, including a fleeting aphrodisiacal reputation: It was described by one 16th-century British writer as a lust-enhancing ‘venerous root.’ The potato is such a staple today that few who enjoy it realize that it was known only in Latin America until conquistadors returning to Spain introduced it to their countrymen.”
(Wall Street Journal)
About the Author
Andrew F. Smith teaches culinary history at the New School, New York. His other books include The Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food and Hamburger: A GlobalHistory, the latter also published by Reaktion Books.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Author of the book Potato A Global History, Andrew F. Smith is a writer and lecturer who focuses on culinary history and food. Smith teaches culinary history at the New School in New York however along side he is the editor of the Edible series (including Potato) and an author for multiple other books. Smith’s knowledge about culinary history is present throughout the book Potato as the reader learns the journey of the Potato from its beginning to how it has changed the world.
Although there were many aspects of the book that made the history of the potato appealing to it's readers, author Andrew F. Smith used too much repetition throughout the book. The parts about the potato famine all seemed to be the same information said over and over again. Also, despite there being many pictures for modern potatoes and foods, the more helpful illustrations seemed to be left out. For example, a picture of potatoes with blight vs. potatoes without blight would have been helpful. Furthermore, Smith did not seem to know much about the ancient potato crop even though the whole entire novel was supposed engage the reader in the HISTORY of potatoes. More than half the book was written about the potatoes in the modern world (the fast food industry) which is information that many people are already familiar with. Approximately 1/4 of the book was written about the past, 1/4 about modern potatoes, and most disappointingly, 1/2 filled with potato recipes that do not teach the reader any intellectual information. Lastly, even though the book covers a large amount of time, it often doesn’t go into enough detail about the topics the author chose to write about. The scope of the information is broad, not deep, and this is very frustrating to the reader because facts are not explained completely and no topic is really explored fully. The book gives a general idea, but ends up being boring because the author doesn’t spend the time to delve into the subject matter.
Despite this criticism, the limiting number of pages from the book were full of ways to enrich one’s knowledge of potatoes. Because the book was slightly centered on a more modern view of potatoes, it gave an insightful look on how potatoes have affected the world over the last few centuries. Smith could clearly explain the different ways in which potatoes affected different parts of the world, whether it was through the versatility of the potato, its low cost to manage, or its taste. His retelling of how the potato ameliorated or destroyed the conditions of countries was very informative and easy to follow. Smith also illustrated the potatoes effects on different regions and how the spread of the potato crop helped different regions connect and diversify. Also Smith does something that is, frankly, very hard to do: He wrote a whole book about potatoes that actually kept me engaged.
The reader learns how the humble spud is intertwined in history, and how the potato is the target of false beliefs that are cleared up by the author. No, the potato is not the cause of leprosy and has not been proven to be an aphrodisiac, though the feelings of well being brought on by the popular vegetable may bring on feelings of amour.
What's the single most popular fast food item in America? Not surprisingly it's the french fry.
The World Catalog of potato varieties lists 4,500 kinds of potatoes. Condiments used on the potato, don't approach that incredible number, but to learn about how people around the world flavor their potatoes read this informative, entertaining, and very readable book.