Non Fiction

Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato by Rebecca Earle

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I did not imagine that a book about potatoes could be this extensive. I read a book about chiles earlier this year, and now it’s the potato. However, the book is not just about the crop but what it implies as a whole from the point of view of a government experimenting with limits to their control over the population that they head/control and the resistance that people were willing to exhibit. The entire span of the narrative is vast and wide in context. We cover the history of the ‘discovery’ of potatoes by colonial powers and all that was done to literally seed into the lives of many. There are conflicting controversies regarding what people thought about it at certain times, many of which the author debunks. It carries so much weight as to how and why the potatoes were given importance. Most of the information was fascinating. This is one collection that will spark conversation because it is hard to believe what this unassuming piece of produce has in its history. To quote a line of the book – “nutrition and economic and political stability underpin the concept of food security”.

The concept of food security is also scrutinized in this volume. Since it was never a person who chose to grow or choose the potato without consequences, people higher in their respective societies sometimes made choices for them. It moved between being an elite thing to a poor man’s food multiple times. This one absurd situation would show what centuries of different rules did with the potato. Obviously, to someone who is not such a frequent reader of non-fiction (namely me, although I am getting better), it is a heavy tome with a multitude of data points. It took me a long time and multiple sittings to work my way through it all. I am not sure it will be to everyone’s taste, but anyone who looks at the summary (and maybe my review) and then picks it up will enjoy it.

I received this book as an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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