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Comment: Condition: Very good condition., Binding: Trade Paperback. / Publisher: North Point Press / Pub. Date: 1999-10-25 Attributes: 319pp / Stock#: 2067213 (FBA) * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World Paperback – October 25, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 1 edition (October 25, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865475784
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865475786
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #942,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the potato was berated, feared, and loathed. It was blamed for everything from population explosions to population implosions, not to mention social upheaval and financial despair. Yet now, with the luxury of hindsight, Larry Zuckerman regards the potato as a saving grace for Western civilization, a crop that protected populations from starvation, encouraged self-sufficiency, and improved the lives of ordinary people. The potato's roller-coaster journey from dreary boiled peasant food into the most widely consumed vegetable on the planet is chronicled in this refreshing history lesson. The Potato goes way beyond the usual scope of spud history, which commonly focuses on the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s. Although this disaster is a key event in the book, the potato's broader influence in the Western world was far more complex--changing the shape of agrarian societies, triggering world emigration, and even influencing social-welfare reforms. Snippets from journals, newspaper editorials, and government documents make this a convincing and fascinating glimpse of four centuries' worth of a vegetable to which we normally wouldn't give a second thought. --Naomi Gesinger --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Throrough and lively....Zuckerman is an excellent storyteller, both conscientious and colloquial....The book stimulates and illuminates."--Emily Gordon, Newsday

"The story of the potato in Western civilization is part of the history of the table, of living conditions, of social attitudes, and even of views of heredity and degeneration. Zuckerman's exploration of these areas without losing his grip on the tuber is masterful, excuted with economy and wit."--Katherine A. Powers, The Boston Sunday Globe

Customer Reviews

If, like me, you mostly read at night in bed, don't choose this book.
H. Gabites
Zuckerman, who writes quite well, provides us with a tremendous social history of the potato in a few countries: France, England, Ireland and the US.
david rudakewich
This book had some statistics but they seemed there more to back the author's opinion rather than to ascertain what really happened.
Royal A Masset

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Tooncesmom TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
With a lively literary style, journalist Larry Zuckerman explains the history and importance of the lowly tuber, from its thirteen-thousand-year origin on the high Andean plateaus to its sixteenth-century discovery by Spaniards down to the beginning of World War I. Zuckerman chronicles just four countries in his treatise about the spud, but these countries: France, England, Ireland, and the United States are, he says, representative of the Western world.
Despite the potato's vital nutrients, it soon became known as the food of the poor and remained out of favor among the gentry. Even the peasants did not appreciate the strange plant that formed odd tubers which sprouted, which they declared to be of the Devil. But by the end of the seventeenth century, the potato as a staple food for Ireland's poor had become widely known. At the same time in England, the potato had yet to become a table food. Farmers fed them to their livestock. Within a hundred years, the potato had "nosed its way into English life." In France, where the fear of nightshades was even greater than in England, the potato caught on because the wet summers did not affect this hardy plant as they did grain.
Zuckerman traces the tuber's history from its beginnings through the horrific Potato Famine of Ireland to farm staple in a post-Civil War U.S. The potato represented a food whose ease of preparation lightened the burden for the average American farm wife. In chapters titled Potatoes and Population, A Passion for Thrift, Women's Work, The Good Companions, and Good Breeding (showing the evolution of the tuber from exotic and fearsome to low class, to beneath notice), Zuckerman educates and entertains, and at the same time shows us that having read the history of the lowly spud, we can never regard it in the same way. Perhaps the humble potato did rescue the Western world.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Constant Librarian on March 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
This title is an eminently readable social history of the potato's influence in Western Europe and the United States. It's full of fascinating facts, e.g. innante prejudice about food sources that came out of the ground delaying acceptance of the potato in Europe.
The book's greatest strength is the lengthy and sympathetic description of the Irish Great Famine of the 1840's. I am somewhat familiar with the secondary historical literature of the period and can confidently say that Zuckerman has thorough grounding in the sources and has fairly presented them.
There are some problems: the book could have been better organized, it skips too lightly over the origin of the potato in South America and although it cites sources, a more traditional footnoting style would have been helpful.
Mr.Zuckerman, I am now your fan and look forward to reading your next book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By david rudakewich on June 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
While i really liked this book and found it full of useful information and insightful analysis, i also found the book very disappointing.
I was disappointed by his treatment of the pre-Colombian aspects of the potato's history. We find out little about the origins of the potato, its importance and uses in pre-Colombian South America, etc. (They are part of the Western World) We also find little about the potato itself. The book is Eurocentric and just a social history. These are both shortcomings of the book and strengths.
Zuckerman, who writes quite well, provides us with a tremendous social history of the potato in a few countries: France, England, Ireland and the US. The book ranges far and weaves a complex historical story with great explanations. Just the discussion on how social attitudes towards the potato is worth the cost of the book. I would recommend this book, but be forewarned that it is a limited social history.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Richard S. Sullivan on December 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
Nothing could be more boring than the potato. Well maybe not. Larry Zuckerman in the, Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World takes the lowly tuber to new heights. Being of Irish and Anglo Irish extraction, the great famine has always struck a chord with me. I've read Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett which brings home the horror of the famine but I've always been a bit puzzled about it. It is hard living in the age of plenty to understand this event. Why not eat something else if the potato crop goes bad and skip the fries and just eat the Big Mac? Zuckerman's fine book explains the inner workings of the famine. A loaf of white bread could cost most of a days wages leaving nothing else for rent, clothes, or other necessities. The potato was a miracle crop. It would grow where most other crops failed. It was almost a complete diet and provided the much needed vitamin C. It was not labor intensive like grain and did not require an oven, which very few could afford.
The book covers a lot more than the famine and is a wealth of detail about the lowly tuber. Ministers decried it and blamed the Irish population boom on its supposed aphrodisiac qualities. The potato was originally grown for beasts and by definition was unfit for humans. It was easy to grow so therefore encouraged laziness, thus confirming English suspicions. It was not mentioned in the Bible so add one more strike against it.
The Potato is anything but boring. After you've read, it you'll never look at a potato the same way again. I'd love to see Zuckerman do the same treatment on rice.
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