Intriguing Romp Through The History Of Food That Fails The Sagan Standard. One of the core features of the scientific method, and indeed of rational thought more generally, is what is known in some circles as the “Sagan Standard” after he quoted it so much: Extreme Claims Require Extreme Evidence.
And this is where this otherwise truly intriguing tale utterly fails, coming in at just 10% documentation despite claims as extreme *even in the prologue* as claiming that 90% of US milk production comes from a particular breed of cows and ultimately is the product of just two bulls that ultimately created that particular breed.
Reading the text as less science and history – even though much science and history are discussed – and more as the “creative nonfiction” Grescoe writes of once describing his writing to a security officer as, the book flows quite a bit better and provides quite a bit of interesting and intriguing nuggets for people of various persuasions to track down on their own. For example, the global histories Grescoe explores, from the Aztec culture of eating certain bugs to the Phonecian/ Mediterranean culture of eating very fermented fish to the Canadian First Nations’ peoples’ culinary pursuits and several others as well all provide rich stories that *beg* for a more documented history. On the other hand, if one is more gastronomically inclined ala the author, perhaps one simply wants to try to track down these particular foods and techniques for him or herself to sample these items as the author did – including a particular breed of pig that “originates” from a small island not far from where this reviewer lives on Florida’s First Coast.
Ultimately, once one abandons any standard of documentation the way one would abandon any sense of “reality” upon entering a cinema to watch the latest MCU movie and appreciates the sheer spectacle of what is presented to you… this is a truly great book that foodies in particular will absolutely love. Given the literal hundreds of different shows about food and culinary pursuits, including several actively traveling around the world highlighting various dishes and techniques just as this book does… clearly there is a market for exactly this kind of tale, and this one does in fact appear to work perfectly within that market. Very much recommended.