A collection of essays about the origins and history of everyday vegetables.
Subtitled Curious (but True) Stories of Common Vegetables, this is a fun, easy reading book that makes you wonder why no one has written a history of vegetables before. With Rupp’s light-hearted approach, the subject suddenly seems an obvious one to explore. (As Rupp’s extensive bibliography makes clear, there have, in fact, been many books on similar subjects, but somehow none caught my attention before this.)
Rupp makes no pretense at presenting serious science here. She takes a Mary Roach approach, focused on anecdotes and tidbits. There’s the occasional nod at anthocyanins, etc. to explain colors or poisons, but the focus is on human perception of the vegetable in question – which is usually more than amusing. I kept this as my bedtime reading for a couple of weeks, and my wife found she made little progress in her own book, as I was constantly interrupting her with curious facts about cucumbers and pumpkins.
Rupp relies a little too heavily on a few staples – Burpee seed catalogs and Thomas Jefferson – and the book is an appropriate length. More, and the fun might have worn out. But for what it is, it is very amusing and well worth reading.
If you have any interest at all in vegetables, or are just looking for something light to read, take a look at this book.