Break out the TV dinners! From the author who gave us Cod, Salt, and other informative bestsellers, the first biography of Clarence Birdseye, the eccentric genius inventor whose fast-freezing process revolutionized the food industry and American agriculture.
Throughout this smart, eloquent and sometimes troubling biography, Kurlansky celebrates the restless and particularly American energy that animated Birdseye: no experience or opportunity was wasted. Birdseye lived the way he ate, digesting everything. He was a curious adventurer eager to discover the next big thing, and he always looked forward. And though Birdseye lived and worked unworried by the consequences of what he did and what he made, people today must struggle with the repercussions of his inventions. (Reviewed by Jo Perry).
Janet Maslin, New York Times
The first book-length biography of Clarence Birdseye… [An] intriguing book that… coaxes readers to re-examine everyday miracles like frozen food, and to imagine where places with no indigenous produce would be without them.
Kurlansky's narrative gifts shine through every chapter.
Starred Review. Covering the science behind Birdseye's other inventions along with intimate details of his family life, Kurlansky skillfully weaves a fluid narrative of facts on products, packaging, and marketing into this rags-to-riches portrait of the man whose ingenuity brought revolutionary changes to 20th-century life.
Starred Review. Yes, the frozen-food guy really was named Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956), and the story of his adventures is another satisfying dish from the remarkable menu of the author of Cod, Salt and other treats.
In his preface to Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky faces the issue of whether or not Clarence Birdseye made what we eat better: "Eating frozen food instead of fresh represents a decline in the quality of food. But very often people are eating frozen food when they would have been eating canned, in which case frozen is an improvement." Kurlansky shows how Birdseye, along with other creators of and manufacturers of new processed foods, transformed sometimes-inferior products into those Americans preferred to eat.
But Americans are re-evaluating their relationship with frozen foods. In 2007 the word "locavore" was the Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year. Locavores, who believe in eating foods grown or harvested locally (as opposed to being frozen or canned and transported), point to industrialized food's deleterious impact on the environment through long-distance shipping and its ecologically unsound farm practices. They look at processed food's negative effect on the environment and personal health, and to the widespread use of antibiotics and pesticides as...
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