An amazing journey, though the organization is meandering and digressive—frequently scattershot but ultimately satisfying.




New Mexico–based food researcher and author DeWitt (The Essential Hot Spice Guide, 2013, etc.) traces the Earth-changing ramifications of the “Columbian Exchange,” which brought indigenous American foods like chili peppers, maize and turkey back to the Old World and transformed the world’s diet.

The author happily admits that he is a chili fanatic, so it is with chili peppers that he is most sympathetic and interesting. He begins the journey from the prehistoric Mayan village of Cerén, now in El Salvador, which was buried in a volcanic eruption in A.D. 590 and which revealed the oldest evidence of chili-growing and -eating outside of Mexico. Christopher Columbus remarked on many of the unfamiliar foods he observed the natives of Puerto Rico consuming with gusto—e.g., chilis, maize, sweet potatoes, pineapple and cacao bean (chocolate). He brought many of these foods back to show the astonished Spaniards. On his second voyage, he deposited many Old World foods in America that would similarly enrich (or change adversely) the American diet and enterprise, such as sugar cane, wheat, melons, fruit trees, and livestock like pigs, cattle and sheep. Both turkey and pineapple became great favorites at European courts, while the potato was scorned as “pig food,” and the tomato was suspected of being poisonous and had to wait much longer to truly be appreciated. The author doggedly pursues how Hungarian paprika was born, thanks to the Turkish traders and occupiers, and he also examines Indian curry, as chilis mixed marvelously with the ancient spices of that land. Felicitous matches occurred with the New World pairing of cacao bean and vanilla with Old World sugar and coffee, while American foods like peanuts, sweet potatoes and avocados became valuable staples in African cuisine.

An amazing journey, though the organization is meandering and digressive—frequently scattershot but ultimately satisfying.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61902-309-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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