Cover image for The food explorer : the true adventures of the globe-trotting botanist who transformed what America eats / Daniel Stone.
The food explorer : the true adventures of the globe-trotting botanist who transformed what America eats / Daniel Stone.
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Dutton, [2018]

Physical Description:
xvi, 397 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), map, portrait ; 24 cm
Chance encounters -- One thousand dollars -- East of Suez -- Guest and protégé -- The listless Pacific -- One cause, one country -- Crossing countries -- Alligator pears -- Grapes of a Venetian monk -- Citrus maxima -- Lemons, leaves, and the dawn of new light -- On the banks of the Tigris -- Bell's grand plan -- A brain awhirl -- Cherry trees with no cherries -- The urge to walk -- Outlaws, brigands, and murderers -- Fly the coop -- Sad and mad and so utterly unnecessary -- Wij zijn Amerikanen -- Epilogue.
The true adventures of David Fairchild, a late-nineteenth-century food explorer who traveled the globe and introduced diverse crops like avocados, mangoes, seedless grapes--and thousands more--to the American plate.
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In the nineteenth century, American meals were about subsistence, not enjoyment. But as a new century approached, appetites broadened, and David Fairchild, a young botanist with an insatiable lust to explore and experience the world, set out in search of foods that would enrich the American farmer and enchant the American eater.

Kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, and hops from Bavaria. Peaches from China, avocados from Chile, and pomegranates from Malta. Fairchild's finds weren't just limited to food- From Egypt he sent back a variety of cotton that revolutionized an industry, and via Japan he introduced the cherry blossom tree, forever brightening America's capital. Along the way, he was arrested, caught diseases, and bargained with island tribes. But his culinary ambition came during a formative era, and through him, America transformed into the most diverse food system ever created.

Author Notes

Daniel Stone is a staff writer for National Geographic and a former White House correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast . A native of Los Angeles, he holds degrees from UC Davis and Johns Hopkins University.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Stone tracks the journeys of botanist David Fairchild (1869-1954), who changed American eating habits and agricultural practices by introducing a wide array of new crops and varietals. Making extensive use of Fairchild's notes and writings, Stone elucidates Fairchild's experiences across the globe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fairchild's efforts are responsible for American familiarity with the Hass avocado, the hops that fueled America's beer makers, and the Egyptian cotton that transformed the desert Southwest, not to mention kale, cherry blossoms, soybeans, dates, and many other items. Stone builds suspense while describing the trials and tribulations associated with global travel of that period. He also investigates the inner working of Washington politics while detailing the battles between Fairchild, who wanted a free hand to import plants to boost the country's economy, and those who thought that such introductions might do grave damage to native species. Stone also uses some of Fairchild's experiences to discuss the way colonization was perceived at the onset of the 20th century. Photographs largely taken from the collection of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Fla., enrich the text. Foodies and scientists alike will appreciate Stone's informative and entertaining book. Illus. Agent: Lauren Sharp, Aevitas Creative. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

IN A PHOTOGRAPH dated Christmas 1896, featured in "The Food Explorer," Daniel Stone's biography of the botanist and explorer David Fairchild, his subjectis sitting with his patron and friend Barbour Lathrop, in what looks like an empty saloon or a lounge on a steamship. The caption informs us that they're off the coast of Sumatra; both are dressed in white and have mustaches that border on the extravagant. Lathrop is wearing a bow tie; Fairchild seems to be sitting on the bar. For the picture to be any more a portrait of the Gilded Age, it would have to sing the libretto of "The Mikado." In one memorable sequence of events, Fairchild took a train across the United States. "The Transcontinental Railroad connected New York to Sacramento at the new, exhilarating speed of 35 miles per hour," Stone reports, adding that its passengers were fed on grouse and champagne. When Fairchild arrived on the West Coast, he learned that the boat he and Lathrop were to board had already left, so they hopped on another train and began the two-week journey to catch another boat in New Orleans, stopping in Santa Barbara to meet Dr. Francesco Franceschi, "who cut for his visitor a slice of a curious squash - 'zucchini,' he called it." This distant age of wonder - an era in which worldliness was hard-earned and Barbour Lathrop circled the globe many times - was full of innocence and promise. In a Washington, D.C., boardinghouse, Fairchild roomed with a former colleague from the Department of Agriculture named Wallace Swingle; together, they brainstormed about building a team that would travel to foreign countries and "administer the introduction of plants." As Stone explains, they "fancied their title as 'agricultural explorer' - a term so whimsical, so obvious, that it came out of their mouths at the same time." Soon enough there was a sign on a door and a new government agency: the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction. The results were tremendous. Avocados, soybeans, nectarines and kale, Meyer lemons, hops, seedless grapes and watermelons were all either introduced or improved by Fairchild and his team. This isn't another chapter in that old story about how we ate badly until fill-inthe-blank came along and revolutionized American dining. This is a story about a world in which there were no avocados until David Fairchild mailed some home, about a strange and meager period in our past in which no one had eaten a zucchini. Stone doesn't editorialize about the consequences. "In 1908," he writes, "few people had seen a soybean," adding that within 100 years, "the evolved descendants of soybeans that Meyer shipped back would cover the Midwest of the United States like a rug. Soybeans would be applied to more diverse uses than any other crop in history." Although Stone wisely keeps himself out of the argument, it's a safe bet that most of his readers will hear the alarm. Fairchild lived in optimistic times. Problems of land and crop management, he and his colleagues believed, were going to be solved in an entirely new way: "America's goal wasn't just to farm; it was to construct an industrial agricultural system bigger and more profitable than any group of people had ever built." The bloom, of course, is off that rose, but it doesn't make Fairchild's story, and the profound role he played in ushering us into modernity, any less fascinating. MAX WATMAN'S most recent book is "Harvest: Field Notes From a Far-Flung Pursuit of Real Food."

Library Journal Review

Stone (editor, National Geographic) takes readers on a whirlwind tour of the life and agricultural successes of David Fairchild (1869-1954), a botanist whose collecting expeditions introduced avocados, Egyptian cotton, and dozens of other new foods to American farms in the first decades of the 20th century. Stone follows Fairchild's initial forays into plant collecting with a wealthy patron aboard luxury vessels as well as his career as a Washington bureaucrat heading the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction. Fairchild's extensive correspondence and published writing take center stage as Stone uses the sources to paint a vivid picture of a man with an insatiable curiosity and clear sense of purpose, traveling during a time when colonialism and nationalism created barriers to safe travel and effective cross-cultural communication. The narrative charts the rise and gradual fall of American interest in plant introduction, which eventually prompted Fairchild to leave public service in the years after World War I, and makes a convincing argument that his contributions to botany and agriculture were substantial and lasting. VERDICT This fascinating read will appeal to those interested in American history and food culture, travel narratives, and agriculture.-Rebecca Brody, Westfield State Univ., MA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. xiii
Part I
Chapter 1 Chance Encountersp. 3
Chapter 2 One Thousand Dollarsp. 24
Chapter 3 East of Suezp. 37
Chapter 4 Guest and Protégép. 51
Chapter 5 The Listless Pacificp. 65
Part II
Chapter 6 One Cause, One Countryp. 81
Chapter 7 Crossing Countriesp. 99
Chapter 8 Alligator Pearsp. 111
Chapter 9 Grapes of a Venetian Monkp. 125
Chapter 10 Citrus Maximap. 140
Part III
Chapter 11 Lemons, Leaves, and the Dawn of New Lightp. 161
Chapter 12 On the Banks of the Tigrisp. 178
Chapter 13 Bell's Grand Planp. 194
Chapter 14 A Brain Awhirlp. 206
Chapter 15 Cherry Trees with No Cherriesp. 220
Part IV
Chapter 16 The Urge to Walkp. 241
Chapter 17 Outlaws, Brigands, and Murderersp. 261
Chapter 18 Fly the Coopp. 277
Chapter 19 Sad and Mad and So Utterly Unnecessaryp. 289
Chapter 20 Wij Zijn Amerikanenp. 306
Epiloguep. 317
Acknowledgmentsp. 325
Bibliographyp. 329
Notesp. 339
Indexp. 387

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