Frostbite: How Refrigeration Changed Our Food, Our Planet, and Ourselves (Hardcover)

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Frostbite is a perfectly executed cold fusion of science, history, and literary a fellow nonfiction writer, I bow down. This is how it's done.” — Mary Roach, author of Fuzz and Stiff

An engaging and far-reaching exploration of refrigeration, tracing its evolution from scientific mystery to globe-spanning infrastructure, and an essential investigation into how it has remade our entire relationship with food—for better and for worse

How often do we open the fridge or peer into the freezer with the expectation that we’ll find something fresh and ready to eat? It’s an everyday act—but just a century ago, eating food that had been refrigerated was cause for both fear and excitement. The introduction of artificial refrigeration overturned millennia of dietary history, launching a new chapter in human nutrition. We could now overcome not just rot, but seasonality and geography. Tomatoes in January? Avocados in Shanghai? All possible.

In Frostbite, New Yorker contributor and cohost of the award-winning podcast Gastropod Nicola Twilley takes readers on a tour of the cold chain from farm to fridge, visiting off-the-beaten-path landmarks such as Missouri’s subterranean cheese caves, the banana-ripening rooms of New York City, and the vast refrigerated tanks that store the nation’s orange juice reserves. Today, nearly three-quarters of everything on the average American plate is processed, shipped, stored, and sold under refrigeration. It’s impossible to make sense of our food system without understanding the all-but-invisible network of thermal control that underpins it. Twilley’s eye-opening book is the first to reveal the transformative impact refrigeration has had on our health and our guts; our farms, tables, kitchens, and cities; global economics and politics; and even our environment.

In the developed world, we’ve reaped the benefits of refrigeration for more than a century, but the costs are catching up with us. We’ve eroded our connection to our food and redefined what “fresh” means. More important, refrigeration is one of the leading contributors to climate change. As the developing world races to build a US-style cold chain, Twilley asks: Can we reduce our dependence on refrigeration? Should we? A deeply researched and reported, original, and entertaining dive into the most important invention in the history of food and drink, Frostbite makes the case for a recalibration of our relationship with the fridge—and how our future might depend on it.

About the Author

Nicola Twilley is the coauthor of Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine, named one of the best books of 2021 by Time, NPR, The Guardian, and the Financial Times. She is cohost of Gastropod, the award-winning and popular podcast that looks at food through the lens of science and history, produced as part of the Vox Media Podcast Network in partnership with Eater. She is also a frequent contributor to The New Yorker.

Praise For…

“The saga of 'domesticating cold' and the many methods of food preservation are spryly communicated by Twilley . . . Information about the evolution and design of modern refrigerators, food waste, the control of fruit ripening, and the subterranean Global Seed Vault ('a Noah's ark for seeds') is noteworthy. This distinctive history tells us not to take our household fridge for granted; it has profoundly affected the composition of our meals and made handy leftovers possible.” Booklist

Frostbite is a perfectly executed cold fusion of science, history, and literary verve. You have no idea the fun you’re in for here, the marvelously odd characters and their quietly world-shifting devices – truths and tales that could only have been unearthed through the reporterly perseverance and giddy curiosity of Nicola Twilley. As a fellow nonfiction writer, I bow down. This is how it's done.” —Mary Roach, author of Fuzz and Stiff
“Nicola Twilley takes readers on a trip along the “cold chain,” which is really what connects farm to table. It’s a fascinating, eye-opening journey, and Twilley is a fabulous guide. Frostbite will forever change the way you look at food.” —Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction
“In Frostbite, Nicola Twilley has made the simple idea of cold into both a complex tale of life on Earth and a wonderfully addictive reading experience. There’s a remarkable cast of characters–from scientists to freezer specialists–working to understand it, to harness it, along the way accidentally and purposefully reshaping our lives. We so often focus on issues of warmth that we tend to forget the bone-chilling power of its opposite. But, I can promise you, after this book you won't do that.” —Deborah Blum, author of The Poison Squad
Frostbite is astonishing. From daring cryonauts to exhaling salad bags to gaseous apples, Nicola Twilley brings readers on a jaw-dropping voyage that lays bare the miracle, mess, and surprising ramifications of refrigeration. A must-read for anyone who eats or drinks in the 21st century. I can’t stop thinking about this book.” —Bianca Bosker, author of Get the Picture
“In her wonderfully, shiver-inducingly immersive Frostbite, Nicola Twilley scrapes clear a window onto the modern cold chain, the pervasive yet mostly invisible infrastructure of chilled warehouses and distribution systems that supply food to our household refrigerators—today’s humming hearths. As Twilley documents in both entertaining and sobering detail, this cold control is a truly remarkable achievement, a boon for human nourishment and pleasure, yet a costly one for the natural superstructures that ultimately feed and house us all.” —Harold McGee, James Beard Award–winning author of Nose Dive and On Food and Cooking

Product Details
ISBN: 9780735223288
ISBN-10: 0735223289
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: June 25th, 2024
Pages: 400
Language: English