Tastebuds can be better than a passport, especially when you have the funds for a meal out – but not a plane ticket. Smithsonian recognized this with its ‘Ten Best Books About Food‘, giving us yet another excuse to travel through flavors (and words…)
The Food Explorer – Daniel Stone, 2018
The name David Fairchild probably doesn’t sound familiar. But if you’ve ever eaten a Hass avocado, complimented the American microbrewery scene or photographed the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C., then you’ve celebrated this man’s overwhelming contribution to modern agriculture.
In the 1860s, Americans rarely traveled abroad (or ate anything more exotic than a potato). If not for a book’s description of Java, Fairchild may have spent his whole life within Kansas state boundaries.
Instead, his unquenchable curiosity for Indonesia fueled a line of events that led to one notably wealthy friend and a generous supply of finances for overseas plant-finding missions.
Together, Fairchild and Barbour Lathrop (himself the most entertaining character of the book) canvased the world, searching out new varietals that might improve farming flavors and techniques on their home soil.
After multiple circles around the globe – Fairchild tells journalists 3; Lathrop claims 43 – their discoveries inspired a new federal department, The Office of Seed & Plant Introduction, and forever altered America’s mental boundaries.
Fairchild wagered that he could cram more romantic glamour into a week of travel than the small-minded man could find in a year of late-night prattle. – Daniel Stone
By the end of Traveler, check a map – where didn’t Fairchild go? Corisca, Jamaica, Italy, Panama, Malta, Chile, Malaysia. He found pears in Peru and cotton varities in Egypt; dates in Iraq and hops in Germany. The first recorded person to bring ice to Fijians, Fairchild spent time on every continent except Antarctica.
Arthur Daniel Stone pushes into the limelight a man who was both appealingly ordinary and arguably one of America’s most extraordinary travelers.
The result? A book that is (and I won’t even apologize for these puns) deliciously digestible. Stone’s blend of historical and personal anecdotes support Fairchild’s life story with a larger picture of the world – and how it was eating – in general. If you’re a Fun Fact Finder, this is your kind of read!
Fairchild may represent a different era, but his journey is relevant: like so many of today’s nomads, he too left a home and family, with little more than a destination in mind and a few dollars in his pocket. He prooved that our world has always been interconnected, and looks best when we see it that way.
The only fault? Not enough travel! Stone referenced Fairchild’s journals frequently, but I wanted more observations, more thoughts, more of Yokohama, Santiago, Honolulu…
Still, I devoured (again, forgive my cheesy descriptions) this book. Who isn’t always hungry for true tales of adventure, passion and faith in the future?
Have you read this book? What’s on your food & travel book list?
Want an armchair escape through Lonely Planet’s 2018 Top 10 List? Start reading your way through Chile…