Tuesday, May 29, 2012

by Mark Kurlansky

Although he was known as "the father of frozen foods," Clarence Birdseye had many other interests and by the time he died had two hundred patents. He was considered an eccentric inventor and the neighborhood kids loved to watch him create. An electric sunlamp, a harpoon for whales, a reflective lightbulb, and paper made from leftover pulp from sugar plants are just a few of his inventions. Birdseye had an insatiable curiosity and always wanted to solve problems. If something didn't work right, he would figure out how to improve it. Garages and basements (even the front lawn) were his laboratories where he built his contraptions.
Birdseye was an avid hunter who ate anything and enjoyed writing about it. Today he would be considered a "foodie" except that he would eat things that most people wouldn't, such as: chipmunk, rattlesnake, gophers, etc. Birdseye loved to cook, was a naturalist, a taxidermist, and enjoyed fishing. To him, life was one big adventure.
In 1912, Birdseye went to Labrador, Canada to work as a fur trapper. Food was difficult because nothing was fresh but preserved heavily in salt. As this was a problem, his mind started thinking and he began experimenting with vegetables. By leaving them outside in the frigid cold, the vegetables froze and when they were thawed, the freshness was still there.
Birdseye's next big job was working for the U.S. Fisheries Association. He developed the patented freezing process by using a bucket of brine and a fan to keep fish fresh. He was off and running and started the Birdseye company.
What a tremendous book. Birdseye's personality virtually jumps off the pages. He truly was an amazing man and really enjoyed living life to its fullest. Author Mark Kurlansky has written a fantastic biography of a man who changed the way people ate.
Very highly recommended.