In the nineteenth century American meals were about subsistence, not enjoyment. Agriculture yielded stable, basic crops like soybeans, corn, and barley, and few growers considered variety or flavor. But as
In the nineteenth century American meals were about subsistence, not enjoyment. Agriculture yielded stable, basic crops like soybeans, corn, and barley, and few growers considered variety or flavor. But as a new century approached, appetites broadened, and David Fairchild, a young botanist with an insatiable hunger to explore and experience the world, set out in search of foods that would enrich the American farmer and enchant the American eater. Boarding a steamship, Fairchild embarked with little money and even less confidence, but he abounded with curiosity. Soon he fell in with an eccentric San Francisco millionaire named Barbour Lathrop, who took a shine to the awkward young man and financed his wanderlust. Across oceans and over rails, up mountainsides and through the surf of tropical beaches, they visited five continents and more than fifty countries, encountering cultures unimaginable to his neighbors back home. Kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, and hops from Bavaria. Peaches from China, avocados from Chile, and pomegranates from Malta. Fairchild’s finds weren’t just limited to food: From Egypt he sent back a variety of cotton that revolutionized an industry, and from Japan he introduced the cherry blossom tree, forever brightening America’s capital. Along the way he was arrested, caught diseases, and bargained with island tribes. But his culinary ambition came during a formative era, the golden age of science, travel, and a world growing more connected; and through him, America’s food system was transformed into the most diverse ever.
(Saturday) 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM