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

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  870 ratings  ·  172 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, 416 pages
Published February 20th 2018 by Dutton Books
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4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  870 ratings  ·  172 reviews

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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
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
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
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
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
One of the best food history books I have read. Be prepared - it is long and there is a lot of background information on Fairchild here. But once you finish, you will never look at Meyer lemon, the cherry blossoms in Washington DC, or avocados the same again! So rich in detail! Truly brings these people to life.
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,
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,
May 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: americana, history, travel
*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.
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
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.
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.
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
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: food, biography
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
Katie/Doing Dewey
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was almost everything I look for in narrative nonfiction. The author took an off-beat topic and turned it into a good story. I enjoyed reading it and learning about a new-to-me part of history. My only complaint is that it didn’t have any particularly exciting or memorable moments. I never felt Fairchild was in danger. There was no adventure or suspense. There also could have been more exciting fun facts. The only one that stuck with me is that ‘wasabi’ in the US is almost always actua ...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
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.
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very interesting.
Jan 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: food-related
Way too loosey goosey with the facts (I think in an attempt to be poetic) to be reliable.
Zoë Danielle
I read the occasional non-fiction book but after picking up and absolutely adoring The Food Explorer by Daniel Stone, I've decided it's a genre I'll be reaching for way more often. When I'm not reading, I'm actually a plant biologist, but I think this biography of David Fairchild, a food explorer who traveled the world and introduced crops like avocados, mangoes and seedless grapes, to America, is an excellent read no matter your day job. Stone includes just the right level of detail to be infor ...more
Angie Boyter
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
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
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
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!

Donald Cutler
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book celebrates the American history without ignoring the less savory aspects of the period while also packing a few lessons for today's horrifying political environment. I highly recommend it for people who like narrative history and “aha” moments about facts and figures.

Full disclosure: Daniel Stone is a friend of mine but even so I would have read this great story about the cool food we now see as local and organic and other such nonsense.
Feiroz Humayara
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Dan Russell
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Here is the story of David Fairchild, a Victorian gentleman who had an urge for adventure, and accidentally met up with Barbour Lathrop, a rich Victorian gentleman with a wanderlust and a need to be recognized. Together, with Lathrop funding Fairchild and providing encouragement (along a never-ending need to be idolized), they went around the world in search of new crops for American farmers to grow for market.

Most surprisingly, Fairchild found plants that we take for granted. It was Fairchild
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Very interesting and something I hadn’t considered before. I guess I knew fruit came from foreign places but I had no idea a man (or eventually men) explored and brought them to the US. It seems a bit sinister that he might have been stealing them...and his nemesis, the Entomologist—Marlatt, made a great point about the practice of bringing new plants also brought the possibility of pests and fungal & bacterial blights to the US. I would have liked to know more about how the plants were intr ...more
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I always enjoy reading about history; and this book especially hit another one of my interests--food. I had never really thought that much about how different plants were introduced to the United States. Thanks to David Fairchild, we now have an abundance of delectable and healthy food and decorative plants. He (and those men that he shepherded after his travels) found the plants when he traveled around the world. This was during the early 1900's when travel was not that fast or dependable, and ...more
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POBL Nonfiction B...: February Book Discussion - The Food Explorer 1 1 Jan 02, 2019 04:07PM  
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“He used to say, ‘Never be satisfied with what you know, only with what more you can find out.” 3 likes
“To mark its global centrality, the French sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi asked the Egyptian government to let him build a ninety-foot statue of an Arab peasant woman wearing robes and holding a torch above her head to welcome Eastern travelers to the Mediterranean. When Egypt declined on account of the project’s high cost, he took the idea to France, which financed the sculpture. Once the Muslim woman was refashioned into a Roman goddess, France gifted the statue to the United States, where the woman became a symbol of liberty for immigrants entering New York Harbor.” 1 likes
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