Monthly Archives: May 2009

Bouley-Standage2I’m now on the road in America for 10 days promoting “An Edible History of Humanity”. The tour kicked off last night with a very elaborate launch party at Bouley organised by The Economist (thanks, everyone!). I explained how the potato famine overturned the Corn Laws in the 1840s (which The Economist was founded to campaign against), thus cementing Britain’s transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Chef David Bouley (left) provided some astonishing food (I loved the black cod buried under a layer of powdered black onion) and foodie tales (including one about a legendary sushi restaurant in Tokyo with only two tables). Today I’m at BookExpo America 2009, speaking on a panel about the future of publishing with Chris Anderson, Steven Johnson and Lev Grossman. The rest of the tour looks like this:

May 31st, 3pm: Reading at Mrs Dalloways, 2904 College Avenue, Berkeley

May 31st, 6pm: Reading at Green Arcade, 1680 Markert Street, San Francisco

June 1st, 7.30pm: Reading at Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz

June 2nd, 3pm: Signing at Omnivore Books, 3885 Cesar Chavez St, San Francisco

June 2nd, 6pm: Reading at Book Passage, Ferry Building, San Francisco

June 3rd, 3.30pm: Reading at Microsoft Campus, Redmond

June 3rd, 7pm: Reading at University Book Store, 4326 University Way NE, Seattle

June 4th, 7.30pm: Reading at Magers and Quinn, 3038 Hennepin Avenue S, Minneapolis

June 5th, 7pm: Reading at Prairie Lights, 15 South Duboque Street, Iowa City

June 6th, 10.30am: Discussion at Printers Row Literary Festival, University Center, Chicago


There have been more reviews of “An Edible History of Humanity” in the Financial Times, Scotland on Sunday, the Toronto Star and the National. As a result I was asked to go on the BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme. This  pushed the book to #68 on — not that I am checking obsessively, you understand.

It also prompted a rather odd editorial from the Guardian, which seems to think that I am opposed to agriculture in all its forms (when I am, in fact, merely interested in why anybody originally adopted it, given the relative drawbacks of farming compared with hunting and gathering). Jared Diamond, among others, has argued that the adoption of agriculture was the worst mistake in the history of the human race. It’s a convincing argument, when you compare the lifestyles of hunter-gatherers with those of early farmers. But agriculture is, of course, the basis of civilization as we know it. So we can hardly object — particularly those of us who live in industrialised societies, the very definition of which is that most people are no longer farmers. Living in the rich world, as I do, I can safely say that agriculture is a good thing. People trapped in a life of subsistence agriculture in the developing world may well feel otherwise, however, and might well agree with Diamond.

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