Food historian Cynthia Clampitt pens the epic story of what happened when Mesoamerican farmers bred a nondescript grass into a staff of life so prolific, so protean, that it represents nothing less than one of humankind's greatest achievements. Blending history with expert reportage, she traces the disparate threads that have woven corn into the fabric of our diet, politics, economy, science, and cuisine. At the same time she explores its future as a source of energy and the foundation of seemingly limitless green technologies. The result is a bourbon-to-biofuels portrait of the astonishing plant that sustains the world.
"A comprehensive, clear-eyed view of the plant that made America what it is today. The author's focus on the Midwest provides both a fresh look and a splendid overview of the importance of this central region, not only in building our nation but also in establishing our place in the world's agriculture and economy."
– Betty Fussell, author of The Story of Corn
"Cynthia Clampitt tells the lively saga of maize's rise from obscure origins in Mesoamerica to the Midwest's – and America's – most significant crop. It is consumed in seemingly unending ways, from straight off the cob to ingredients in thousands of processed foods. It is the main ingredient in animal feed and it is even converted into the ethanol that powers our cars. Corn is inextricably linked to Midwestern history, and Clampitt tells the incredible tale well. Midwest Maize is carefully researched, insightful and delightful to read."
– Andrew F. Smith, author of Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American History
"Readers will not want to miss a single detail of this modest grain's story as it rises from a simple foodstuff for Native Americans found here by the early settlers, to one of the most important farm products of today's century. Brava. This superb book, clearly a work of enormous curiosity and passion, is truly a job very well done!"
– Linda and Fred Griffith, authors of Onions, Onions, Onions, winner of the James Beard Award
"Cynthia Clampitt has given us a richly detailed cultural history of corn, from its origins in Mexico to the mega-crop that is planted on millions of acres of Midwestern land today. She also provides a balanced discussion of corn's role in providing both food and fuel in the years to come. This book is a must-read for anyone following the debates over food, land use, and healthy environments in today's world."
– John C. Hudson, author of Making the Corn Belt
"This book contributes to scholarship in foodways through its careful 'biography' of a single crop and also by demonstrating how technology, geographic features, settlement history, economics, and politics both shape and are shaped by food culture [...] It makes an excellent point that corn in the Midwest provides a microcosm for understanding the impact of the choices we make as well as offering possible solutions."
– Lucy M. Long, author of Regional American Food Culture
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Cynthia Clampitt is a food historian and travel writer, and the author of Waltzing Australia.