The Food Explorer
The true adventures of David Fairchild, a late-nineteenth-century food explorer who traveled the globe and introduced diverse crops like avocados, mangoes, seedless grapes--and thousands more--to the American plate.In the nineteenth century, American meals were about subsistence, not enjoyment. But as a new century approached, appetites broadened, and David Fairchild, a young botanist with an insatiable lust to explore and experience the world, set out in search of foods that would enrich the American farmer and enchant the American eater.Kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, and hops from Bavaria. Peaches from China, avocados from Chile, and pomegranates from Malta. Fairchild's finds weren't just limited to food: From Egypt he sent back a variety of cotton that revolutionized an industry, and via Japan he introduced the cherry blossom tree, forever brightening America's capital. Along the way, he was arrested, caught diseases, and bargained with island tribes. But his culinary ambition came during a formative era, and through him, America transformed into the most diverse food system ever created.

The Food Explorer Details

TitleThe Food Explorer
Author
ReleaseFeb 20th, 2018
PublisherDutton Books
ISBN-139781101990582
Rating
GenreHistory, Food and Drink, Food, Nonfiction, Biography, Environment, Nature, Culinary

The Food Explorer Review

  • Renee Nash
    January 1, 1970
    Book DescriptionThe true adventures of David Fairchild, a late-nineteenth-century food explorer who traveled the globe and introduced diverse crops like avocados, mangoes, seedless grapes--and thousands more--to the American plate.My ThoughtsIn the 19th century, preparing meals and eating was solely viewed as necessary for survival. People didn't go on culinary adventures or look for exotic ingredients to create flavor combinations to delight the palate. Enter David Fairchild, a botanist who tra Book DescriptionThe true adventures of David Fairchild, a late-nineteenth-century food explorer who traveled the globe and introduced diverse crops like avocados, mangoes, seedless grapes--and thousands more--to the American plate.My ThoughtsIn the 19th century, preparing meals and eating was solely viewed as necessary for survival. People didn't go on culinary adventures or look for exotic ingredients to create flavor combinations to delight the palate. Enter David Fairchild, a botanist who traveled the globe in search of food items that American farmers could grow that would then provide more choices to the American eater.Daniel Stone has written an incredibly detailed and insightful book based on David Fairchild's journeys. Love kale, mangos, avocados, pomegranates and hundreds of other crops? You can thank Mr. Fairchild. Mr. Stone used Mr.Fairchild's extensive notes to bring his journeys in the 19th and 20th centuries to life. World travel was much more complex than what we are used to today and David had many epic adventures. In addition, he had to fight our government's reluctance to bring non-native plants to America. There are so many interesting stories about the foods we as a country were eating and how Fairchild was so instrumental in shaping our culinary canvas.I read this from beginning to end in one book binge. As someone who considers herself a foodie, I am amazed that I wasn't familiar with all that David Fairchild accomplished. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in food. It was enlightening and enjoyable.Thank you, Daniel Stone, Penguin Group Dutton, and NetGalley for the digital ARC. Winning a contest is always good, but winning an outstanding book is even better.
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  • Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
    January 1, 1970
    This was an unexpected gem of a book. It's the story of David Fairchild, an American botanist who traveled the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to find plants and fruits that were unknown in America. He sent cuttings and seeds back home to the U.S. Department of Agriculture so that the specimens could be studied and possibly transplanted and who knows, maybe become popular. And in fact, that happened many times, and explains how we happen to enjoy avocados and kale and quinces and This was an unexpected gem of a book. It's the story of David Fairchild, an American botanist who traveled the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to find plants and fruits that were unknown in America. He sent cuttings and seeds back home to the U.S. Department of Agriculture so that the specimens could be studied and possibly transplanted and who knows, maybe become popular. And in fact, that happened many times, and explains how we happen to enjoy avocados and kale and quinces and mangoes and different varieties of lemons and grains and much more. The story of a botanist does not sound intrinsically fascinating to me, but Fairchild's enthusiasm for plants and for world travel and adventure helped carbonate the story. And his friendship with Barbour Lathrop was the other ingredient that turned The Food Explorer into a story for more audiences than the botanically-minded. He was a wealthy world traveler who befriended Fairchild when Fairchild was on one of his first trips. About twenty years older than Fairchild, Lathrop became a kind of mentor to Fairchild and introduced him to adventure travel. He also funded many of Fairchild's trips before the Department of Agriculture discovered the potential value of Fairchild's contributions. He was also a rather eccentric character who offsets Fairchild's straight arrow nature to good effect in the book.(Thanks to Penguin/Dutton and NetGalley for a digital review copy.)
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  • Bandit
    January 1, 1970
    Just about every time you eat a fruit, vegetable or just something exciting that came from the earth, not was killed for you or by you, you have David Fairchild to thank. And no one even knows about him or at least not enough and I’m so glad there’s now this book to educate and finally give credit where credit’s due. For any discriminate palate, every vegetarian, anyone who likes or loves food, David Fairchild is The Man. Tirelessly traveling the globe and collecting fruits and vegetables (and t Just about every time you eat a fruit, vegetable or just something exciting that came from the earth, not was killed for you or by you, you have David Fairchild to thank. And no one even knows about him or at least not enough and I’m so glad there’s now this book to educate and finally give credit where credit’s due. For any discriminate palate, every vegetarian, anyone who likes or loves food, David Fairchild is The Man. Tirelessly traveling the globe and collecting fruits and vegetables (and these will actually be redefined for you by this book too) and plants to liven, broaden and expand America’s palate. He wasn’t the only one, but he was the initiator, the man with the idea and later a plan, who set it all in motion. Nowadays it wouldn’t work, of course, we’ve discovered much of what is out there to eat, did some food based math…how difficult is it to cultivate/how well will it be liked…and got a variety. But back in the day, late 19th/early 20th century, the market was begging for some diversity. Just like America was built on immigrants (the fact so often conveniently forgotten), American diets were built on and dramatically improved by delicious exports from all over the world. Otherwise it would just be meat and some local crops, how’s that for a fad diet? Nutrition and vitamin depleted blandness permeated kitchens and dining tables across the US and David Fairchild changed it. It’s pretty awesome to think about. Avocados, kale, citruses…so many tasty lovely things, most in fact except for his beloved mangosteen, have become such supermarket essentials it’s difficult to imagine life without them. But there are only here become at one point Fairchild has traveled to the land of their origin, tasted them and brought or shipped them back to the US to be cultivated. Again, awesome. Sure, he’s had some fortunate turns, wealthy improbably named benefactors, propitious marriage (to a daughter of Alexander Graham Bell no less, yes that phone guy), a dedicated protégé (Frank Meyer, more on him later), but what Fairchild was able to accomplish through sheer drive and willpower, the scale of his vision and the work he put into realizing it and his unwavering commitment are simply astounding. USA went through expansion, imperialism, international outreach and then, of course, snapped back into nationalism and xenophobia (like it does), but Fairchild always persevered in his belief that new and exciting things from other countries can only be good for the society. Sure it’s just food, but it’s a pretty poignant worldview for this day and age. What he’s done was quite heroic and I’m glad to have learned his story. Now Frank Meyer was a Dutchman who came to the US and picked up Fairchild’s outbound missions as the back stayed back in Washington to manage the operations. Oh and you know all those lovely cherry blossoms Washington D.C. is known for…Fairchild to thank and a great story. There was quite a serious battle of wills between Fairchild and a former childhood friend now formidable foe who protested further imports citing the dangers to existing crops. Food export and cultivation was a complicated process back in the day, but also a huge industry, consider the fact that almost 50% of the population were farmers comparing to only a few % today. Where Fairchild was devoted, Meyer was a fanatic, he traveled China extensively and (stunningly) a lot of it on foot and eventually the dangers (local war and crime), the privation, the disappointment in the world (this s around WWI) and (probably most crucially) the loneliness and isolation proved too much for him. That was probably the most emotionally devastating part of the book, reading about Meyer’s descent into depression and Fairchild unable to help, not unwilling, but through a difference of mentalities and restricted by the prevalent spirit of get up get going, unable to write the right things in his letters. Meyer is the man behind Meyer’s lemons. There is a joke here somewhere about lemons and lemonade, but none that would be in good taste. The man’s trajectory was a tragic one. Fairchild had more food collectors, but none like that. And eventually the need for it died out, the devastation of The Great War reduced the demand for exotic foods. It boggles the mind to consider the variety, though…once there were something like 409 varieties of tomato being cultivated in the US, now it’s about 79. Boggles the mind to consider that once there was a man who traveled the world trying new foods just to expand the range of what was known. A real explorer. So that’s the book, terrific, absorbing, meticulously researched (seriously about a quarter of it is just dedicated to bibliography and notes), incredibly informative and just very necessary. The version I read was a digital ARC from Dutton, which was challenging…for some reason (copyright paranoia?) all the ff,fi and fl are taken out of the text, imagine the fun, so ist oor is first floor and so on. Different publishers handle ARCs differently, most are perfectly readable, not sure why Dutton chooses to do this to their readers. Also (not sure if it’s because it’s an arc of what) no photos, nothing, just two paltry visual aids. That’s just sad, especially for a book so inclusive. But all that aside, I’m glad to have read it. And you should read it too, it’s only slightly longer than this review. If you did read this entire behemoth of a review though, here are some bon mots from the book to make it worth your while, delight and amuse.To botanist vegetable is any other edible part of the plant that doesn’t contain seeds.In 1893 US Supreme Court ruled tomatoes to be vegetables so they can collect the higher tariffs.4 major original citrus fruits are citrons, pomelos, mandarins and papedas.1893 World’s fair had 2 replicas of Liberty Bell, one made from rolled oats, one from oranges.The word avocado is a derivative of an Aztec word for testicle.Fun, right? The book has tons of these. Thanks Netgalley.
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  • GONZA
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoy the story of David Fairchild a lot and the author was able to describe his life and epic travels in a very interesting way. More an adventure book than a biography, Highly recomendable. La storia del botanico David Fairchild mi é piaciuta parecchio e l'aútore é stato in grado di descrivere la sua vita e i suoi viaggi complicatissimi (ai tempi) in modo da scrivere piú un libro di avventure che una biografia. Da leggere!THANKS TO EDELWEISS FOR THE ARC!
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  • Angie Boyter
    January 1, 1970
    Meals must have been pretty dull in the nineteenth century. My high-school history class made a big deal of the scenes where Native Americans introduced European settlers to maize, but no one told us how many foods we take for granted today were not found in North America until someone began importing them for farmers to grow locally. Without major efforts to introduce them to American farms we would not have items like asparagus, bananas, or even apples and onions.The Food Explorer tells the ad Meals must have been pretty dull in the nineteenth century. My high-school history class made a big deal of the scenes where Native Americans introduced European settlers to maize, but no one told us how many foods we take for granted today were not found in North America until someone began importing them for farmers to grow locally. Without major efforts to introduce them to American farms we would not have items like asparagus, bananas, or even apples and onions.The Food Explorer tells the adventures of David Fairchild, who traveled the globe numerous times beginning in 1894 searching for new or improved plants to benefit American farmers and consumers. And they WERE adventures. Beyond the obvious perils of world travel at that period, including disease (Fairchild’s companion Lathrop caught yellow fever on one of their trips.), not all countries were eager to lose a possible competitive advantage by having their local crops grown by American farmers. Sometimes Fairchild was essentially engaged in espionage and had to smuggle his finds back to the United States.Fairchild’s quest to broaden the scope of American agriculture was a personal one, but, not being a wealthy man, he needed sponsorship. During many of his trips he was sponsored by or was an employee of the US Department of Agriculture, but as political winds shifted, so did their interest, and Fairchild’s funding waxed and waned. In one episode the Secretary of Agriculture sent him to Corsica and then after he arrived refused to send him the money to do the job! Fortunately Fairchild had a benefactor in the person of Barbour Lathrop, a highly idiosyncratic character with a love of travel and a need for companionship and whose deep pockets helped compensate for his testy personality.In addition to Fairchild’s story, there is a lot of interesting lore in the book, such as how to solve the challenge of getting collected specimens back to Washington safely, e.g., by sticking cuttings into the starchy centers of potatoes. I also learned that, although the tomato is a biologically a fruit, the Supreme Court in 1893 declared them to be a vegetable in order to collect higher tariffs on them. And if you enjoy eating French fries, thank Thomas Jefferson, who first served them in the White House in 1799.Although Fairchild is definitely the hero of the book, there is plenty of background to provide the context in which he was able to do his work. New big companies in the late nineteenth century such as Kellogg’s introduced exciting products like chocolate milk and whetted the American appetite for other new foods, and events like the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 introduced more than just the Ferris wheel. The importance of agriculture to the economy made agricultural policies even more of a political football than it is today, and congressman would distribute largesse in the form of seeds.David Fairchild was not the only zealous food explorer who opened America to the broader world of food, but his story is an inspiring example of what one man can do with determination, grit, and some serendipity. It is a fascinating read.NOTE: My thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for an advance review copy of this book.
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  • Feiroz Humayara
    January 1, 1970
    This biography of David Fairchild, the nineteenth century adventurer-botanist, narrates the story of his travels across the latitudes and back again in search of plants that went on to revolutionise how and what America eats. Needless to say, me being both a foodie and someone interested in plant genetics, this book had my full attention just by reading the synopsis.One does not usually think that a scientist could have made America into the diverse culinary hub it is today but that is what came This biography of David Fairchild, the nineteenth century adventurer-botanist, narrates the story of his travels across the latitudes and back again in search of plants that went on to revolutionise how and what America eats. Needless to say, me being both a foodie and someone interested in plant genetics, this book had my full attention just by reading the synopsis.One does not usually think that a scientist could have made America into the diverse culinary hub it is today but that is what came to light when Daniel Stone stumbled upon a map showing showing where the popular foods were domesticated while researching an article for National Geographic. It transpired that this plethora of crops arrived in America the same way immigrants did. He dug deep into the life of Fairchild and showed us his journey from a young enthusiastic scientist who was inspired by Alfred Russel Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago to being the hard working traveller who sent the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeds and cuttings of every unique plant he could find.The book ventures into various aspects of Fairchild’s life including his encounters with historical figures like Alexander Graham Bell (with who he had a personal relationship), George Washington Carver and Theodore Roosevelt. The part which mostly concentrated on his personal life was where we see his courtship of the daughter of the famous inventor and the brief glimpses into his married life, showing us his transformation from an ambitious adventurer into a family man. The remarkable development of friendship between Fairchild and Barbour Lathorp who was his constant companion and an integral ally in making everything possible. Thanks to Fairchild, now we have the avocado on our toasts and the mango in our smoothies and numerous other superfoods. His visit to India surely made the Americans able to access the king of all fruits, our amazing mangoes (you’re welcome world). Before him, America only ate to survive but not to savour.If I were to mention my favorite parts of the book, the close-up encounter with cannibalism in the Islands of Fiji would be sure to take the cake but I was intrigued by Fairchild’s visit to Hawaii where he feels that even though America fought for freedom from colonialists, it had somehow started being one itself, imposing and invading where they were not welcome. This impressed me because writing a book about a white man domesticating native elements from all corners of the globe while respecting their boundaries and their culture is splendid. The book also shows the struggles of the American farmers due to America’s expansion and reconstruction which undermined and destabilized farming.A intricately winding novel that would be loved by the scientists, foodies, adventure lovers and history buffs all the same, this was enlightening to say the least.Thank you Penguin Randomhouse and Dutton Books for sending me the physical ARC and Net-Galley for the digital ARC as well.
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  • Jon Letman
    January 1, 1970
    This is delicious book will hold great appeal to anyone who likes food, plants, or travel. Whether you are familiar with the legacy of America's premiere post-Civil war plant collector David Fairchild or have never heard of him, you're sure to savor this new account of his remarkable life and legacy. Daniel Stone has penned an irresistible, quick-moving account of Fairchild's unusual journey from Kansas farmlands to the jungles of Indo-Malaya to Mediterranean gardens, Egyptian cotton fields, an This is delicious book will hold great appeal to anyone who likes food, plants, or travel. Whether you are familiar with the legacy of America's premiere post-Civil war plant collector David Fairchild or have never heard of him, you're sure to savor this new account of his remarkable life and legacy. Daniel Stone has penned an irresistible, quick-moving account of Fairchild's unusual journey from Kansas farmlands to the jungles of Indo-Malaya to Mediterranean gardens, Egyptian cotton fields, and remote villages and hamlets on every continent save Antarctica. Like a well-planned feast, Stone blends travel adventure, history, botany and horticulture with just enough politics of the day (last 19th/early 20th centuries) to leave you feeling better informed and deeply engaged in the story of how Fairchild steered the American palate from mundane to miraculous in an age of extraordinary transformation. Order The Food Explorer now and prepare to dig in, for this is one literary treat you shouldn't miss.
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  • Britt, Book Habitue
    January 1, 1970
    Let me start by saying I read a digital ARC (which isn't my preference but it was what was available).The digital ARC had MAJOR formatting issues (for example anywhere you had "ff" or "fi" or "fl" in a word those letters simply weren't present.... sometimes there was a space where they should go and othertimes not) that HOPEFULLY will not be present in any finished copy.Also, I'm desperately hoping that the meandering of the text and the sudden jumps in topic are at least partly due to the forma Let me start by saying I read a digital ARC (which isn't my preference but it was what was available).The digital ARC had MAJOR formatting issues (for example anywhere you had "ff" or "fi" or "fl" in a word those letters simply weren't present.... sometimes there was a space where they should go and othertimes not) that HOPEFULLY will not be present in any finished copy.Also, I'm desperately hoping that the meandering of the text and the sudden jumps in topic are at least partly due to the formatting issues.Because wow meandering. You don't necessarily mind... because it's mostly interesting... but it's a bit of a jolt to be brought back to Fairchild and remember "oh yeah! THAT'S what this book's supposed to be about".I do wish some of the modern moralizing had been slashed by a good editor. That and the level of meandering are what lost it a star.
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  • Jillian Doherty
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderfully immersive and readable account of how the US came to receive over 400 new imports ~ all thanks to David Fairchild's botanist spy skills!Kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, and hops from Bavaria. Peaches from China, avocados from Chile, and pomegranates from MaltaPlus from Egypt he sent back a variety of cotton that revolutionized an industry, and via Japan he introduced the cherry blossom tree, forever brightening America's capital, plus so much more in this historical explorati A wonderfully immersive and readable account of how the US came to receive over 400 new imports ~ all thanks to David Fairchild's botanist spy skills!Kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, and hops from Bavaria. Peaches from China, avocados from Chile, and pomegranates from MaltaPlus from Egypt he sent back a variety of cotton that revolutionized an industry, and via Japan he introduced the cherry blossom tree, forever brightening America's capital, plus so much more in this historical explorations of our food, cultures, and breaking boundaries.
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  • Rosamond van der Linde
    January 1, 1970
    Fabulous foodAmazing adventures of a man whom I met as a child. David Fairchild and I planted an avacado tree on the Kampong! I heard tales from David. This book fascinAted me since some of the tales I had heard directly from this exceedingly well traveled,gentle man. I have never tried a mangosteen!
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  • Diana Parsell
    January 1, 1970
    Wonderful book. Fresh topic and well-researched relevant story that the author brings to life through a fast-paced narrative, threaded with great historical context and informed discussion about the evolution of food diversity in the United States.
  • Eggbeck
    January 1, 1970
    4.8 stars. Will probably read again. Makes me want to be a food historian.
  • Adrianne
    January 1, 1970
    via https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/...
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