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The Story of Corn

The Story of Corn
Betty Fussell
University of New Mexico Press
Publication Date: 

paper, 357 p., $24.95

Food historian Betty Fussell weaves an intriguing tale in her compilation of history, myths, science, and art in this epic work on corn, the grain of the New World. Faced with a mountain of facts and folklore, she has done a superb job in organizing a text that covers such a wide range of information. She explores corn’s history from pre-Columbian times to the present day.

After establishing its importance as a food source for man and animal and for its products in industry, the author proceeds to detail its relationship with indigenous and immigrant peoples in the New World, as well as other populations around the globe. Her knowledge of Native American traditions and rituals that centered on the life cycle of corn is prodigious. She draws on personal anecdotes and her family’s history to reflect on the importance of corn in their lives. Her efforts reveal that corn dictated a way of life in ancient civilizations, and that it continues to influence lifestyles today, especially through its industrial products.

The author has produced a classic publication in praise of corn. No matter what their interests, readers will enjoy her examination of a grain that continues to play a critical role in world history.

— Marilyn K. Alaimo, garden writer and volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden