I like to read food history books, and with the whole Michael Pollan thing going on, publishers are taking a chance on more and more. Some of them are a bit of an effort – I managed to finish Betty Fussell’s The Story of Corn, but it draaaaagged … The Fruit Hunters was a lovely counterexample.
I did know that the hand grenade was inspired by the pomegranate, grenade in French, I just didn’t know why. It turns out the pomegranate was originally dehiscent: when it was ripe, it shattered and threw its seeds some good distance. It’s been bred now not to do that, obviously. Yay trivia.
Even though it’s got the trivia, and the requisite chapter on How _x_ Shaped Humans (yes, yes, monkeys see the color red stand out with respect to the background forest), this is not really a history book- it’s more of a travelogue. The poor guy was even infected with his current Fruit Hunting passion in Brazil, just like me.
It is also an Immense Jealousy-Inducing Shopping List.
I now need me a mangosteen. How strange that this has become my number-one reason why I’m thankful to live close to Canada.
Best recent Actual Food History book goes to Beans, by Ken Albala. Great stories, separated by variety so you can trace them over time (it even mentions the Hutterite Soup bean! Awesome!) plus great recipes, plus it’s just darn pretty. I love when books are designed and printed well, so that it’s a pleasure just to hold them in your hand and flip through them. Highly recommended.