Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: The Fruit Hunters

The Fruit Hunters, written by Montrealer Adam Leith Gollner, had a lot to offer me as a reader and a person of food loving habits.  This book is separated into four sections: nature, adventure, commerce and obsession; it says so right on the cover.  Each of the sections has four chapters loosely following a narrative that follows the writer through the various phases of his becoming a fruit obsessive.

I was a little worried that this book would be some catalogue of unknown fruits or some travelogue raving foodie getting their trips paid for writing purple prose but I was wrong.  Of course, some of these elements are there but I was really surprised by the compactness of this book's information.  It was like reading Marshall McLuhan where you could unpack some of thoughts for a long time.  Throw away comments about United Fruit Company or the cashew nut and why we never find it really raw sent me to check the google.  So aside from the short reading time of two hours, it has caused me to lose serious hours looking for things like a picture of the coco-de-mer and many other oddities.

By the last quarter of the book, I was feeling in a sorrowful state around the corruption of the fruit business, the fate of most of the wild fruits and just what this all meant.  I have read enough about our food sources to know that fruit wasn't alone in the commodification and creation of a monoculture based on shipping food inefficiently all over the world for little gain but Gollner suggests a few bright spots.

1.  Food scientists and fruit growers are working on food that will not only last long, look lovely but taste great.  The pluot is used as this example.
2.  Seed arks may allow us to find older more robust species that will be able to be brought back with great results or help with crossbreeding new variants.  The banana crisis is used to illustrate this.
3.  There are many species in the backyards of everyone including North Americans, forgotten fruit that may show promise away from these mass market creations.  Local and sustainable may be available for fruit if we just know where to look.  Think about pawpaws...That is what I am going to look out for this year as a project.

Anyways, all said, this was a great read and has kept me up at night.  I say to go ahead and find it.  I got my copy at Book City in hardback on one of the remainders shelf.  I will be putting it in our street's annual street sale but I will remember it for a long time.

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