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The sinister, secret history of a food that everybody loves - The Potato

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When Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic in search of Pacific spices 500 years ago, it was a famous miscalculation. Columbus instead made landfall in the Caribbean among the Taíno, a peaceful people who lacked any peppercorn or nutmeg or mace — but who had mastered an equally important plant.

The Taíno mainly cultivated manioc, a starchy root vegetable much like the potato. Manioc, also known as cassava or yuca or tapioca, is a highly caloric staple that today feeds billions of people around the world. And the Taíno, also known as the Arawak, were experts at growing it.

"The Spaniards were much impressed with the productivity of manioc in Arawak agriculture in the Greater Antilles," historian Jonathan Sauer recounts in his history of crop plants. "[A Spanish historian] calculated that 20 persons working 6 hours a day for a month could plant enough yuca to provide cassava bread for a village of 300 persons for 2 years."

By all accounts, the Taíno were prosperous — "a well-nourished population of over a million people," according to Sauer. And yet the Spanish, who ultimately colonized and ravaged the people, considered them primitive. The Taíno lacked the monumental architecture of the Maya or the mathematical knowledge of the Aztec. And most importantly, they were not organized in the type of complex, far-reaching, hierarchical social structure that is considered one of the hallmarks of civilization and was far more widespread in Europe and Asia.

Scholars have long puzzled over the different fates of the world’s peoples. Why, on the eve of the modern world, were some societies so technologically and politically complex? For centuries, leading intellectuals from Adam Smith to Karl Marx believed that agricultural abundance had propelled the rise of advanced civilizations. The Assyrians and Babylonians of ancient Mesopotamia, for instance, flourished thanks to their fertile farms, which fed an upper class that devoted itself to religion and empire.

In his 1997 bestseller “Guns, Germs and Steel,” historian Jared Diamond argued that the availability of nutritious and easily domesticated plants and animals gave some societies a head start. In the Middle East there was barley and wheat; in Asia there was millet and rice. “People around the world who had access to the most productive crops became the most productive farmers,” Diamond later said on his PBS show. And more productivity led to more advanced civilizations.

But the staple crops associated with less-advanced peoples — like manioc, the white potato, the sweet potato and taro — weren’t necessarily less productive. In fact, manioc and the potato are superstar crops, less demanding of the soil and less thirsty for water. These plants still feed billions of people today.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news...-that-could-change-the-story-of-civilization/
 

Chomsky

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When Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic in search of Pacific spices 500 years ago, it was a famous miscalculation. Columbus instead made landfall in the Caribbean among the Taíno, a peaceful people who lacked any peppercorn or nutmeg or mace — but who had mastered an equally important plant.

<snip>
It's my understanding that due to religious custom the Taino were obligated to eat this plant exclusively on Mondays ...
 
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from the book "The potato hack"

The potato hack was modeled after an 1849 diet plan for people that were becoming fat and “dyspeptic” from living too luxuriously. This potato diet simply called for one to eat nothing but potatoes for a few days at a time, promising that fat men become as “lean as they ought to be.” One hundred and sixty-seven years later, we are fatter and sicker than ever, but the potato diet still works. Potatoes contains natural drug-like agents that affect inflammation, hunger, insulin, sleep, dreams, mood, and body weight. The potato is the best diet pill ever invented. The potato hack is a short-term intervention (3-5 days) where one eats nothing but potatoes. This short mono-food experiment will strengthen your immune system and provide you with all of the nutrition you need to remain energetic, sleep great, and, as a side-effect, lose weight. The potato hack will help you develop a new relationship with food, hunger, taste, and yourself. The potato hack is not just for the overweight. As noted in 1849, anyone with digestive complaints who follows an all-potato diet for a few days at a time will find their digestion improves greatly. Modern science shows that simple diets high in fiber create an intestinal microbiome that is highly diverse and stable. This diversity and stability is lacking in most people and leads to digestive complaints like Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and Small intestinal bacterial overgrowths (SIBO). The "modern dyspeptic gut" affects millions of people and costs billions of dollars annually. The answer might be as simple as 3-5 days of potatoes. You don't need this book to do the potato hack. Just eat potatoes until full every day for 3-5 days. It really is that simple! This book explains the science behind the potato hack, some variations on the basic hack, recipes, and what to do if it does not work as advertised. Also found in The Potato Hack is a comprehensive review of resistant starch, gut health, potato history, and a growing guide for those that want to grow their own. Most of the photography throughout the book was done by award-winning photographer, Ann Overhulse. The artfully photographed potatoes found on the cover and on 30 pages within are well worth the full price of the book. Guaranteed that after reading The Potato Hack, you will never look at potatoes the same
 

sangha

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When Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic in search of Pacific spices 500 years ago, it was a famous miscalculation. Columbus instead made landfall in the Caribbean among the Taíno, a peaceful people who lacked any peppercorn or nutmeg or mace — but who had mastered an equally important plant.

The Taíno mainly cultivated manioc, a starchy root vegetable much like the potato. Manioc, also known as cassava or yuca or tapioca, is a highly caloric staple that today feeds billions of people around the world. And the Taíno, also known as the Arawak, were experts at growing it.

"The Spaniards were much impressed with the productivity of manioc in Arawak agriculture in the Greater Antilles," historian Jonathan Sauer recounts in his history of crop plants. "[A Spanish historian] calculated that 20 persons working 6 hours a day for a month could plant enough yuca to provide cassava bread for a village of 300 persons for 2 years."

By all accounts, the Taíno were prosperous — "a well-nourished population of over a million people," according to Sauer. And yet the Spanish, who ultimately colonized and ravaged the people, considered them primitive. The Taíno lacked the monumental architecture of the Maya or the mathematical knowledge of the Aztec. And most importantly, they were not organized in the type of complex, far-reaching, hierarchical social structure that is considered one of the hallmarks of civilization and was far more widespread in Europe and Asia.

Scholars have long puzzled over the different fates of the world’s peoples. Why, on the eve of the modern world, were some societies so technologically and politically complex? For centuries, leading intellectuals from Adam Smith to Karl Marx believed that agricultural abundance had propelled the rise of advanced civilizations. The Assyrians and Babylonians of ancient Mesopotamia, for instance, flourished thanks to their fertile farms, which fed an upper class that devoted itself to religion and empire.

In his 1997 bestseller “Guns, Germs and Steel,” historian Jared Diamond argued that the availability of nutritious and easily domesticated plants and animals gave some societies a head start. In the Middle East there was barley and wheat; in Asia there was millet and rice. “People around the world who had access to the most productive crops became the most productive farmers,” Diamond later said on his PBS show. And more productivity led to more advanced civilizations.

But the staple crops associated with less-advanced peoples — like manioc, the white potato, the sweet potato and taro — weren’t necessarily less productive. In fact, manioc and the potato are superstar crops, less demanding of the soil and less thirsty for water. These plants still feed billions of people today.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news...-that-could-change-the-story-of-civilization/

The article oversimplifies Jared Diamond's argument, but its' arguments about grains vs roots is thought provoking
 
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