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The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,884 ratings  ·  328 reviews
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 yo
Hardcover, 397 pages
Published February 20th 2018 by Dutton Books
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Jim Fonseca
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
The true story of David Fairchild (1869-1954), a botanist who traveled the world looking for new and better food crops for American farmers. It’s not a full biography because it focuses mainly on the 20-years or so that he was actively overseas collecting new seeds, cuttings and sprouts.

Fairchild collected specimens until his late 30’s. This was the 1880’s – 1890’s and much of South America, Africa, India and China were wild, primitive, dangerous places. He had great adventures being arrested an
Richard Reese
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Cue up the marching band, majorettes, flag-waving veterans, and cheering crowds. The Food Explorer by Daniel Stone is a proud celebration of American greatness. The hero of the story is David Fairchild (1869–1954), a botanist and agricultural explorer. Working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, his group was responsible for sending home seeds and cuttings of thousands of plants from nations around the world. The goal was to expand the variety of crops grown in America, and build the biggest ...more
Leslie Ray
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
In the late 19th century, eating in America was pretty basic without a lot of variety and probably not a lot of flavor. It was definitely not the culture of being a "foodie" that we have today. Despite the diverse land and climate, especially as the country grew westward, the food that was grown and cultivated, remained relatively the same. David Fairchild, a botanist, with an insatiable desire to travel, sought and brought back some of our favorite foods that we take for granted as always havin ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Book Description
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.
My Thoughts
In 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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
“We have only one life to live and we want to spend it enriching our own country with the plants of the world which produce good things to eat and to look at."

This is the next pick for my local bookclub and even though I had to fight the eBook hold lists at the library, I was able to get to it before we meet. It is a fascinating tale of many of the foods grown and consumed in America today, all because of this one man who ventured out and collected seeds and cuttings from around the world. My un
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I am not normally a voracious page-turner of non-fiction, but this one did it for me.

This is the true story of David Fairchild, a man who was responsible for immeasurably enriching America's agriculture. Does that sound dull? It's not. If you're like me, you love food. If you're like me, you maybe also consider yourself fairly willing to try new things and food of different ethnicities. BUT, none of us can escape that we are probably pretty complacent about the foods we have grown up with,
Barb in Maryland
Absolutely fascinating!
I came to this book absolutely clueless about its contents--beyond what's on the cover. A GR friend had added it to her 'want to read' shelf, the cover looked interesting, and my library had it.
Once in my hands I dove right in--and barely came up for air until I had finished!
There is so much to enjoy here: the author has a deft story-telling style and the story itself is full of action, intrigue, politics, and history. David Fairchild, our hero, left behind a copious archi
Jun 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
"Voices as pointed as their hats"??? What does that even mean?

Who founded the Red Cross? - it wasn't Clara Barton.

People in Australia celebrate with pies, curry and lamb chops??

In 1897 Australia wasn't federated so there was no Australian Department of Agriculture. I assume he meant New South Wales.

"Developing governments, especially those, like Australia, endowed with money from a foreign crown..." What? What money from a foreign crown? In 1897 NSW and the other colonies were self governing and
Nicholas Bobbitt
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it
While this is an intriguing story, I don't know that Stone does it justice with his writing.
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Reads like fiction and provides incredible insight into where our produce comes from. I’ve got tons of “did you know...” facts that I didn’t even know I wanted to know, thanks to this book.

The author reads the audiobook version, making it incredibly engaging for what would seem to be a mundane topic.
A wonderful story about the life of David Fairchild a botanist, who traveled the world bring back many new crops and plants for North Americans to enjoy.
This story along with all of the fascinating people Fairchild knew, and worked with was exceptionally fun to read. So much information, not only about plants but of the people as well, who against many odds brought these plants to North America. How to ship, pack and eventually grow and get people to like what they grew was a constant challenge,
I'm not sure that I will remember even 25% of the material in this book, but it was very interesting to listen to!
May 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, travel, americana
*3.5. Tons of interesting information and mostly well-written, just dragged a little in some parts. I learned so much though, this book is an education in and of itself.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent story of how so much of our food came to be accessible to us - through the dedication of several men committed to exploring the diverse world of plants. I really enjoyed this, especially toward the end. How lucky we are for David Fairchild and his colleagues!
Sarah Rosenberger
I was looking forward to this book for months, but just didn't end up loving Stone's writing style or his audiobook narration. I also think I was hoping for more about the early Columbian Exchange, because it seemed like half the time a new fruit was discussed, it was like "well, this was technically already growing in the US, but Fairchild introduced a hardier, more popular variety." I might have liked it more if I went into it without any expectations.
Heather G
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m quite jealous of Fairchild, as he got to explore the world before globalization and got to see cultures original and intact. Globalization has killed a lot of things. Very interesting book and adds a new perspective to some American history. Purchased a Meyer lemon yesterday and said a thanks to Frank. Part of what made this a good read is that Fairchild wrote down details of his travels that were relayed in the book and the photos add a nice touch.
Kelli Baker
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a great book. I felt like I was listening to a long podcast. I can't wait to travel somewhere new and see what different foods I can find.
Sep 22, 2019 rated it liked it
This non-fiction book chronicles the life of David Fairchild (1869-1954). Ever heard of him? Me neither. Fairchild, according to Stone, introduced the U.S. to countless new plant species. Along with Fairchild's tale, Stone also discusses the emergence of the Department of Agriculture and other globe-trekking botanists who helped change the life of American farmers and eaters.

For some reason, I was expecting a rollicking tale of bombastic adventure. Instead, this is a thorough history of plant in
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, food
Informative and fascinating. I grew up a mile from David Fairchild’s estate, “In the Woods,” in North Chevy Chase and had not heard of him or the estate. If you enjoy stories of English eccentric explorers then you will enjoy this tale of American plant nerds and eccentrics. Although the book is about Fairchild and his stewardship of food exploration we meet many interesting characters who deserve books in their own right: foremost among them being Frank Meyer for whom the lemon is named; Barbou ...more
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't think I could dream up a premise for a non-fiction book i would like more. Botany? Food? 20th century exploration? There were agricultural explorers??! Sure, there were some creepy colonial dynamics but really what could be cooler than getting to travel around and learn all about what types of plant people grew and ate? And the book is full of interesting gems - i had no idea that when the Japanese first shipped us the cherry trees to line the tidal basin they were found to be full of ag ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Summer
Recommended to Jessica by: Goodreads Best of 2018
Shelves: non-fiction
I know this is probably considered a science/food book but it's really a pretty amazing adventure story with the side benefit of giving the US some of it's most loved (and hated) produce: cashews, mangoes, avocados, dates, kale, nectarines, Meyer lemons, to name a few, plus flowering cherries including those in Washington, DC.

While 3/4 of the book focuses on David Fairchild and Barbour Lathrop, the last quarter also gives due to several other key players and their contributions: Frank Meyer (le
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Maybe 3.5 stars for this one. I enjoyed expanding my understanding of the expansion of food in the United States. That may seem like a boring topic, but Stone makes it quite interesting. I doubt I will ever look at my lemons or avocados quite the same way again. I’m also now curious about all those foods that did not become staples of our diet (would someone please find that personal-sized pineapple with hardly any core?). Then there is the fascinating topic of the battle between those who champ ...more
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I REALLY enjoyed this book. It's not a novel, but it's really well-written, never boring, and best of all, my mind was opened to a topic I've never known anything about before. Con and I were discussing this in Wichita some visit, so I had a brief introduction but that's it. I just didn't know that "food explorers" traveled the world in the late 1800s-early 1900s searching for new foods to grow and eat in America. So many foods we take for granted today, like nectarines, avocados, cashews, mango ...more
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had visited the Fairchild Botanic Gardens in Miami, but I had not idea about its rich heritage. David Fairchild was a renowned scientist who travelled the globe looking for edible flora to bring to the U.S. At one point in the book the author mentions how he can't help but see the fruit (no pun intended) of Fairchild's labor every time he eats a meal. I have found myself doing the same recently. A remarkable book, worthy of this remarkable man.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-book
Wow, what an interesting read.
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed the research, the writing and learning so much about how fruit, vegetables and trees came to this country. What a well researched story! Highly recommend.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Educational and interesting to learn about how and which foods were introduced from abroad. However, not a page turner. I wasn’t super excited to get back to it all the time.
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very interesting.
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