Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man

Mark Kurlansky. Doubleday, $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-385-52705-7
Although frozen foods made Birds Eye a household name, few were familiar with Clarence Birdseye (1886–1956), developer of the fast-freezing process that became a multibillion-dollar international industry. In the first biography of the eccentric Brooklyn-born inventor, award-winning food author Kurlansky (Cod) brings Birdseye to life as he outlines the twists and turns of his unusual career. In a 1945 interview Birdseye stated that G.A. Henty’s 1891 novel Redskin and Cowboy “first influenced him to live the outdoor life.” Yearning for adventure, he dropped out of Amherst College in 1908 and worked in the southwest as a U.S. Biological Survey naturalist, collected ticks in Montana to research Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and became interested in food preservation in the frozen wilderness of Labrador. Experiments with freezing led to his 1927 patent, which “truly began the frozen food industry,” yet he had to deal with the same problems Adam Trask faced in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden—distrust, since “frozen vegetables were an unheard-of idea,” and “no trucks or train cars for frozen food,” Birdseye became a millionaire when Post bought his company for $23.5 million. Covering the science behind Birdseye’s other inventions along with intimate details of his family life, Kurlansky 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. Agent, Charlotte Sheedy. (June 8)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2012
Release date: 05/08/2012
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