You may pardon my enthusiasm for this topic, because obviously I would have to care deeply to spend so much time and effort on writing about it. However, it appears that others find the topic interesting, as well—so I thought I’d link to a few of the reviews Midwest Maize has received, and then include endorsements the book received from other food historians and food writers. I’m hoping these suggest to you not only that I’ve done an adequate job of telling the tale but also, and more importantly, that it is a tale worth telling. This is the story of America. Corn is the golden thread that ties together our history, or economy, and most likely our future. But the story is also a lot of fun, from vampires to Fritos, John Deere to the Chicago Bears, and vastly more.
Los Angeles Magazine recommended it as summer reading for foodies. Blog Critics and Chicago Book Review also had nice things to say. (And Chicago Book Review also named it one of the best nonfiction books of 2015.)
An article and interview, rather than a review is this article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It does include excerpts from the book–and a link at the bottom of the article will take you to one of the recipes from the book, just in case you want to find out what folks were eating in the 1800s.
And here is what the experts were saying even before the book came out.
“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
“Cynthia Clampitt’s Midwest Maize is the most complete book on the subject we have encountered. . . . 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
And finally, how the University of Illinois Press describes the book:
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 built a nation–and sustains the world.
Midwest Maize was short-listed for the Jon Gjerde Prize for Best Book on Midwestern History published in 2015.
The book was named one of the nine best nonfiction books of 2015 by Chicago Book Review.
Short-listed for grand prize, Eric Hoffer Award.
Honorable mention in Culture category, Eric Hoffer Award.