Where Our Food Comes From Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine by Gary Nabhan

Friday, May 27th 2016

Whose guilty here for taking a picture of their food before eating? I know I am! I know it’s cliche to take a picture of your plate on Instagram but seriously who hasn’t done it! Have you ever though about where exactly is your food coming from? I know it came from the restaurant kitchen! But what happen  before that? Which farm were your vegetables grown? I’m sure these are not the questions that roam through your mind before you’re about to eat, yet I urge you to think about them now….

Thanks to the powers of Netgallery and the publication company Island Press I was given the chances to read this interesting novel about food.
This book is obviously different from the other books I usually read because it’s not a Young Adult book nor is it a romantic novel. Food and language play a huge role in our cultural identity. Moving to America was an extremely difficult move for my family, but thankfully our mother always kept our homesickness away because was able to recreate the same holiday meals we expected to eat if we were still living in our native country. It wasn’t until I moved to North Dakota I ever felt the true power of being separated from foods I’ve become so costume to having at my finger tips. This is why I was rather curious about this book, Where Our Food Comes From Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine  by Gary Nabhan. 

Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilo was a prominent Russian botanist and geneticist who is best known for having identified the centuries of origin of cultivated plants. He devoted his entire life to the study of improving corn, wheat, and cereal crops that would hopefully sustain the global population. What sparked Vavilov to dedicate so much of his life to such a project ?This can be answered in looking into Vavilov’s past.

Nikolay Vavilov

“The son of a Moscow merchant who’d grown up in a poor rural village plagued by recurring crop failures and food rationing, Vavilov was obsessed from an early age with ending faminein both his native Russia and the world.”[1]

Vavilov had a humble beginnings by ways of being a born into a merchant family in the city of Moscow. Vavilov attended the Moscow Agricultural Institute in 1910 with a focus on pest such as snails. He continued his studies by working at the  Bureau for Applied Botany in addition to the Bureau of Mycology,the study of fungi/biochemical properties towards the taxonomy uses to human for medical or food purposes, as well as Phytopathology, the study of diseases in plants. Thanks to the author writing this wonderful book I was able to learn more than I ever though I would.

The author has a great way of retaking the steps of the wonderful Russian botanist steps. I learnt a lot about the biodiversity, the skill sets as well as the local knowledge that farmers have in order to keep food production despite the economical or political difficulties. I truly admire the author for diving into this topic head first, it gives me  more appreciate for the farm land that surrounds my home. One of the most popular degrees here in Minot North Dakota is Agricultural. Af first I really didn’t think much about the degree, until now.

Where Our Food Comes From Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine  by Gary Nabhan is an interesting read for those who are interested in the environment, agriculture, or the economical link between farmers crops, food, and the consumers. The most interesting section to me was the portion about Lebanon , where the author’s family is originated. Nabhan takes this time to speak about how the land was turned over to cash crops by the nineteenth century, that produced a diversity in  crops. I can honestly go on about this book and the topics but I feel that it’s very important that we read this wonderful book.

I have to say I won’t have read this book if it weren’t for the fact that husband is a really excellent cook. He’s always interested in these topics which is what really sparked me to read this book. I really feel that it’s important that we the consumers take more interest in the production or the process of how our foods are produced.
I truly hope you enjoyed my review
Have a wonderful day!

Work Cited

[1] Siebert, Charles. 2011. “Food Ark.” National Geographic. Volume 220 (1), July 2011. Pages 122-126.


About Gary Paul Nabhan

Gary Paul Nabhan is an internationally-celebrated nature writer, seed saver, conservation biologist and sustainable agriculture activist who has been called “the father of the local food movement” by Utne Reader, Mother Earth News, Carleton College and Unity College. Gary is also an orchard-keeper, wild forager and Ecumenical Franciscan brother in his hometown of Patagonia, Arizona near the Mexican border. For his writing and collaborative conservation work, he has been honored with a MacArthur “genius” award, a Southwest Book Award, the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing, the Vavilov Medal, and lifetime achievement awards from the Quivira Coalition and Society for Ethnobiology.

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