The past centuries, if not millennia, have been characterized by the unprecedented spread of certain plants to other continents. Crops such as bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and rice are classic examples. Many others did not require human help; their seeds were spread by wind and birds and encountered favorable conditions, as has happened since time immemorial. Some plant types are particularly aggressive, spreading and replacing other plants. They are usually called “invasive” types, and they sometimes succeed with the involuntary help of humans. Now, due to climate change, vegetation zones are changing: Conifer forests, for example, are spreading to tundras, and in the tropics, the rain forest is becoming denser. More… “A Fruit of Many Names”

Bernd Brunner writes books and essays. His latest book (in German) is When Winters Were Still Winters: The History of a Season. His book Birdmania: Remarkable Lives with Birds will be published by Greystone Books in 2017. He is a fellow and nonfiction resident of the Carey Institute for Global Good in Rensselaerville, New York. His writing has appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, The Paris Review Daily, AEON, TLS, Wall Street Journal Speakeasy, Cabinet, Huffington Post, Best American Travel Writing, and various German-language newspapers. Follow him on twitter at @BrunnerBernd.

After one too many scenarios like this one, I decided to do a little investigating on whether cookbooks were tested before being slapped with a $35 price tag and shipped off to bookstores. Turns out, no. A cookbook editor at Doubleday-Broadway told me that the authors are trusted that they know what they are doing.

“Someone should really field test these things,” I grumbled as a “cold, refreshing white gazpacho” came out tasting weirdly like hummus — runny hummus that took me four hours to make. “Someone with a slight obsessive compulsive disorder. Someone who likes it when her surly butcher growls at her.” Strangely, someone took me up on my offer.

Which is how I found myself drunk at the Hispanic grocery store, looking for hominy. I had been seduced by John Thorne’s easy writing style in Mouth Wide Open: A Cook and His Appetite. Everything sounded effortless, and… More…