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 The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World


by Larry Zuckerman

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,


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