Precious Cargo: How Foods From the Americas Changed The World

Overview


Precious Cargo tells the fascinating story of how western hemisphere foods conquered the globe and saved it from not only mass starvation, but culinary as well. Focusing heavily American foods—specifically the lowly crops that became commodities, plus one gobbling protein source, the turkey—Dewitt describes how these foreign and often suspect temptations were transported around the world, transforming cuisines and the very fabric of life on the planet.

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Precious Cargo: How Foods From the Americas Changed The World

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Overview


Precious Cargo tells the fascinating story of how western hemisphere foods conquered the globe and saved it from not only mass starvation, but culinary as well. Focusing heavily American foods—specifically the lowly crops that became commodities, plus one gobbling protein source, the turkey—Dewitt describes how these foreign and often suspect temptations were transported around the world, transforming cuisines and the very fabric of life on the planet.

Organized thematically by foodstuff, Precious Cargo delves into the botany, zoology and anthropology connected to new world foods, often uncovering those surprising individuals who were responsible for their spread and influence, including same traders, brutish conquerors, a Scottish millionaire obsessed with a single fruit and a British lord and colonial governor with a passion for peppers, to name a few.

Precious Cargo is a must read for foodies and historians alike.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Precious Cargo:

"An amazing journey...ultimately satisfying."—Kirkus

"DeWitt’s convivial, unpretentious approach and clear enjoyment of his topic make this assemblage a treasure to dip into again and again." —Weekly Alibi

Library Journal
06/01/2014
DeWitt's (Founding Foodies) well-researched, scholarly, and fascinating work examines how food from the Americas has affected people and countries around the world. The author chronicles the exploits of European explorers who returned home with the foods they found on their travels. Through the centuries, foods unique to the Americas—potatoes, tomatoes, turkey, corn, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, pineapples, and numerous spices—were introduced to other cultures. Many of these crops became commodities, and DeWitt credits them with increasing the world's population. Organized thematically by foodstuff, the work delves into the botany, zoology, and anthropology of provisions from the New World, as well as offering glimpses at numerous people who were involved in bringing American foods to the rest of the globe. Numerous black-and-white illustrations and maps from a variety of sources enhance the text. VERDICT Both public and academic libraries will find this a welcome addition to sociological, anthropological, and culinary collections.—Christine E. Bulson, emeritus, Milne Lib., SUNY Oneonta
Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-17
New Mexico-based food researcher and author DeWitt (The Essential Hot Spice Guide, 2013, etc.) traces the Earth-changing ramifications of the "Columbian Exchange," which brought indigenous American foods like chili peppers, maize and turkey back to the Old World and transformed the world's diet.The author happily admits that he is a chili fanatic, so it is with chili peppers that he is most sympathetic and interesting. He begins the journey from the prehistoric Mayan village of Cerén, now in El Salvador, which was buried in a volcanic eruption in A.D. 590 and which revealed the oldest evidence of chili-growing and -eating outside of Mexico. Christopher Columbus remarked on many of the unfamiliar foods he observed the natives of Puerto Rico consuming with gusto—e.g., chilis, maize, sweet potatoes, pineapple and cacao bean (chocolate). He brought many of these foods back to show the astonished Spaniards. On his second voyage, he deposited many Old World foods in America that would similarly enrich (or change adversely) the American diet and enterprise, such as sugar cane, wheat, melons, fruit trees, and livestock like pigs, cattle and sheep. Both turkey and pineapple became great favorites at European courts, while the potato was scorned as "pig food," and the tomato was suspected of being poisonous and had to wait much longer to truly be appreciated. The author doggedly pursues how Hungarian paprika was born, thanks to the Turkish traders and occupiers, and he also examines Indian curry, as chilis mixed marvelously with the ancient spices of that land. Felicitous matches occurred with the New World pairing of cacao bean and vanilla with Old World sugar and coffee, while American foods like peanuts, sweet potatoes and avocados became valuable staples in African cuisine.An amazing journey, though the organization is meandering and digressive—frequently scattershot but ultimately satisfying.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781619023093
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 6/17/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 807,835
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Dave Dewitt is the author or coauthor of 45 books combined with a 20-year career of editing food magazines. He is a nationally-known proponent of chile peppers and spicy foods and the founding producer of the major trade and consumer show for the industry, the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, now in its 25th year. He lives in New Mexico.
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