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Vegetables: A Biography Hardcover – April 13, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"Bloch-Dano displays here erudite command of culinary history with both literary and historical anecdotes. . . . Digesting the contents of this little book yields a trove of trivia with which to impress shoppers and vendors alike at the farmers' market."


"This allusive, impressionistic, quintessentially French tour of the kitchen garden takes us from aphrodisiac artichokes to Zola's gritty market stalls, with many a literary and gustatory detour. Lazy summers in grandmother's garden, the frenzy for fresh winter peas that gripped the court at Versailles in 1660, the global travels of the chili pepper, the contested history of Cinderella’s pumpkin--it's all here, and it's all fun."

(Jane S. Smith, author of The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants)

"From Grandma's vegetable garden to our childhood tables, from personal memories--yes, members of the pumpkin family are also Proustian madeleines--to the origins of vegetables and to the way they have been cooked throughout the ages and on different continents, from the healing cabbage to the aphrodisiacal artichoke, we feast upon so much new information and upon how we can benefit from it."

(Marie Claire on the French edition)

"A lovely book that makes you feel at once hungry for these plants and satiated by the knowledge you just reaped about them."


"Quirky . . . entertaining. . . . Bloch-Dano's book confirms that we are what we eat, and that vegetables, like Bloch-Dano's gardens, are firmly rooted in the realm of imagination."
(Times Literary Supplement)

“This is a wonderfully evocative and indeed mouthwatering celebration of vegetables and the joys of gardening. . . . Bloch-Dano takes 10 vegetables, from the carrot and the cabbage to the pumpkin and the pea, and explores their history, drawing on literature, art, language, geography, genetics and horticulture. She even throws in some recipes. There are many delightful details. The artichoke was Freud's favourite plant, apparently reminding him of tearing up a book as a child. On parsnips, she cites Samuel Beckett: ‘I like parsnips because they taste like violets, and violets because they smell like parsnips.’ Bloch-Dano says ‘gardens are rooted in the realm of the imagination.’ So too are vegetables, as her slight but rich book shows.”
(Guardian (UK))

About the Author

Evelyne Bloch-Dano is the author of many books, including Madame Proust: A Biography, which is also published by the University of Chicago Press. Teresa Lavender Fagan has translated many books, including J. M. G. Le Clezio’s The Mexican Dream.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Tra edition (April 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226059944
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226059945
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,446,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By F. Fairfield on September 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this because I am growing vegetables instead of mowing a lawn. It is interesting but not the kind of book you go back to again and again. I would say the price is too high for what it is.

On the other hand, I would recommend The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek, also available from Amazon: a book for gardeners about gardeners, but not about gardening advice. A classic and lots of fun to read (you will recognize yourself). Your public library might have it too.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Riley on August 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
a very short book for the price. as the author states in the intro, this book isn't meant to cover every vegetable out there, but she could've added a lot more than e.g. pumpkin, peas, tomato, artichoke and the few others she did. i'm glad i got it from my local library.
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