In this thought provoking piece of nonfiction, Smith introduces a topic that an average person would not normally consider: the significance of the potato. In a very concise, but to the point manner, he exposes how this odd looking tuber has shaped the course of human history. His straight forward writing style could be compared to that of an elaborate set of notes. Smith saturates every page with fact after fact, yet his ability to condense thousands of years worth of history into 176 pages allows this book to be easily comprehensible read.
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.