Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Defrosting a Feast

The Adventures of a Curious Man
By Mark Kurlansky

Though next week many Americans will be sitting down to a home-cooked meal, frozen food has long since become part of our way of life. Whether we're hungry for fish sticks, pizza, spinach, or waffles, we love the convenience of the refrigerated aisle at the grocery store. And though you may not know it, if you've ever popped a TV dinner into a microwave oven you owe a debt of gratitude to Clarence Birdseye. (There's a reason his name is on so many packages of frozen peas.)

Birdseye revolutionized the frozen food industry, and this book tells his story. Though it's light on biographical detail, the author ably puts his subject within historical context, illuminating the world at the time from the perspectives of science, government, economics, the food industry, and the spirit of invention.

Birdseye, argues the author, would be perplexed at our modern concerns about species depopulation and our emphasis on eating locally instead of shipping food around the world. The ability to eat a little bit of everything from everywhere was part of the reason Birdseye wanted to improve the food-freezing process in the first place! Of course, the world moves on, and it's good to know where we came from when we consider where we'd like to go.

If you'd like to read a book about how we eat from a different perspective, one that might have given Birdseye something to sink his teeth into, try The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan.

Review by Danny Hanbery

To request the books mentioned above, click on the titles.

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