This is a story about a world in which there were no avocados until David Fairchild mailed some home, about a strange and meager period in our past in which no one had eaten a zucchini. ... Fairchild lived in optimistic times. Problems of land and crop management, he and his colleagues believed, were going to be solved in an entirely new way: 'America’s goal wasn’t just to farm; it was to construct an industrial agricultural system bigger and more profitable than any group of people had ever built.' The bloom, of course, is off that rose, but it doesn’t make Fairchild’s story, and the profound role he played in ushering us into modernity, any less fascinating.
Mr. Stone is an amiable narrator who balances botany, culinary history and travelogue with fast-paced adventure writing and a well-drawn cast of characters, although his prose is marred occasionally by a clumsy or clichéd metaphor ... From the outset, Fairchild acknowledged that collecting new plants and transporting them to the United States was the easy part of his job. Convincing consumers to get past what he called 'a persistent conservatism of taste' and try new foods was far more difficult. His success in breaking through that barrier was perhaps his most important contribution to the evolution of American cuisine.
The book retraces Fairchild’s journeys and includes enough cultural and political history to situate the reader in early 20th-century America, though Stone does not looking too closely at the ethics of Fairchild’s work, which sometimes involved stealing plants and seeds ... Despite occasionally awkward phrasing, The Food Explorer does a wonderful job bringing Fairchild’s story to life and giving this American original some overdue recognition.
In The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of a Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats...Daniel Stone transforms seemingly endless journals, letters and records into a meticulous retelling of how David Fairchild transported thousands of plants to American soil between 1894 and 1904 ... His commitment to American agriculture proves noble, but the pace of this final third of the story slows significantly as Fairfield stays home. Fortunately, his role in bringing Japanese cherry blossom trees to D.C. makes this section worth the read (and reason enough for his fame).
In his entertaining first book, journalist Stone follows the unsung botanical hero ... While Stone may be a bit too dismissive of the various insect pests possibly introduced along with these foreign plants, he captures the flavor of an adventurous age, using Fairchild’s voluminous writings to launch vivid descriptions of his travels.
Stone builds suspense while describing the trials and tribulations associated with global travel of that period. He also investigates the inner working of Washington politics while detailing the battles between Fairchild, who wanted a free hand to import plants to boost the country’s economy, and those who thought that such introductions might do grave damage to native species. Stone also uses some of Fairchild’s experiences to discuss the way colonization was perceived at the onset of the 20th century ... Foodies and scientists alike will appreciate Stone’s informative and entertaining book.
Employing dogged research and close scrutiny of his subject’s letters, rough drafts, and 'ponderings on the backs of envelopes and napkins,' the author delves into many different aspects of Fairchild’s life ... Narrated in vividly realized, richly descriptive text with accompanying photographs, Stone’s biography reanimates the legacy of an important contributor to the botanical diversity of America ... An erudite and entertaining historical biography of a food pioneer with particular interest for gastronomes and agriculture enthusiasts.