I have been writing about food and nature for over twenty years, and all my books, whether they be cookbooks or popular science, are ultimately about how one thing leads to another. My current book, Microbia, is a study of how microscopic organisms, mainly bacteria and fungi, are implicated in every aspect of our lives.The bacteria that comprise our microbiome, soil, even the atmosphere, are so numerous and diverse that sometimes it seems to require an advance degree in biology to understand how they impact us, which is why I returned to college in middle age to help make sense of this essential and fascinating aspect of life. My journey revealed a surprising truth: microbes connect all living things.
College was in equal parts challenging, humbling, and hilarious. The material was daunting, not only because I was convinced it was beyond my comprehension (a conviction many people share about science that simply isn't true), but also because microbes are so very different from the organisms we can see. I initially found it difficult to understand organisms that evolve so fast they can become another species in a matter of weeks, that can share genes by touching, that bridge the nonliving and living spheres of life. What I learned is that microbes invented living and they do a fair amount of our living for us. We are microbial in essence, and life itself is a vast conspiracy of microbes.
Microbia explores what microbes are and how they live, and compares the microbiomes of soil, plants, animals (that includes us), and places, explaining such things as the wrongheadedness of labeling some bacteria "good" and others "bad." Microbia walks you through this incredible garden of the unseen and helps you realize that we share everything.
This is a microbiology primer that reflects what helped me understand the entwined worlds of microbes and the rest of life on planet Earth. From understanding food cravings to providing a new definition of family, the lessons of Microbia show how different the world is with a microbial point of view.