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Break out the TV dinners! From the author who gave us Cod, Salt, and other informative bestsellers, the first biography of Clarence Birdseye, the eccentric genius inventor whose fast-freezing process revolutionized the food industry and American agriculture.
"The first book-length biography of Clarence Birdseye. . . . [An] intriguing book that . . . coaxes readers to re-examine everyday miracles like frozen food, and to imagine where places with no indigenous produce would be without them."—Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Best known for his deliciously knowledgeable food histories (Cod, Salt, The Big Oyster), Kurlansky['s] . . . wide-ranging curiosity matches his subject’s, and his narrative of Birdseye’s life displays great feeling for a fellow adventurer. . . . [R]eaders will emerge from this breezy book with a fondness for its engagingly eccentric protagonist—and a much better understanding of the intricate interconnection of traditional practices, technical breakthroughs, business deals, and social change that put those frozen peas in our refrigerators." —Wendy Smith, Daily Beast
"Kurlansky brings Birdseye to life. . . . Covering the science behind Birdseye's... inventions along with intimate details of his family life, [he] skillfully weaves a fluid narrative of facts on products, packaging, and marketing into this rags-to-riches portrait of the man whose ingenuity brought revolutionary changes to 20th-century life." —Publishers Weekly (starred)
"Yes, the frozen-food guy really was named Clarence Birdseye (1886–1956), and the story of his adventures is another satisfying dish from the remarkable menu of the author of Cod (1997), Salt (2002) and other treats.
Kurlansky . . . places Birdseye in the same category as Thomas Edison: amateurs who got curious about a problem, played around with it (sometimes for years) and eventually figured it out. Birdseye had many more interests than frozen foods, writes the author; he invented, among other things, a kind of light bulb and even a whaling harpoon. He also grew up in a world that seemed to have limitless resources—no worries about plundering the planet. He killed creatures with abandon for decades, many of which he enjoyed eating, including field mice, chipmunks and porcupine. His curiosity also made him fearless. He conducted field research on Rocky Mountain spotted fever (collecting thousands of ticks), and he lived in the frigid Labrador region of Canada (and took his equally fearless wife and their infant). It was in the North that he began to wonder why foods frozen there—naturally—tasted so much better than the frozen foods back home. He discovered, of course, that it was quick-freezing at very cold temperatures that did the trick. He eventually invented the process that produced vast amounts of good frozen food, but then had to wait for the supporting infrastructure (transportation, storage, etc.). Kurlansky tells the exciting tale of Birdseye’s adventures, failures and successes (he became a multi-millionaire) and his family, and he also offers engaging snippets about Velveeta, dehydration and Grape-Nuts. The author notes that Birdseye knew that curiosity is “one essential ingredient” in a fulfilling life; it is a quality that grateful readers also discover in each of Kurlansky’s books." —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Kurlansky’s narrative gifts shine through every chapter." —Booklist