Exploring a Cultural Icon
Sales Date: August 23, 2019
208 Pages, 5.13 x 8.50 in
- Published: August 2019
- Published: August 2019
Inspired by the mystique of a uniquely American tree, the pecan, Oklahoma writer John Gifford set out to explore the US pecan industry, which provides 80 percent of the world’s supply of this special tree nut. What he discovered during his two-year immersion was a nut—one that’s suprisingly symbolic of America itself—that’s poised to become the next superfood and an industry that today finds itself in the most important juncture in its history.
Though the US pecan belt extends from the Carolinas to California, the pecan tree, which was revered by some of our nation’s founders, has its origins in the South Central United States, where wild pecans still grow along the region’s rivers and streams, and in its floodplain forests. The pecan is the only native tree nut that has been developed into a significant agricultural crop. Though native pecans continue to figure into the 280-million-pound annual US crop, wild pecan trees face an uncertain future as worldwide demand centers on the larger and more lucrative “improved” varieties.
Pecan America provides readers with a look at how the rising demand for pecans around the world is transforming the way this nut is grown, promoted, and consumed here in the United States. Along the way, Gifford explores its presence in American folk art and culture, documents the pecan industry’s quest for share of stomach in a market brimming with other tree nuts, examines the pecan’s surprising array of health benefits, and profiles some of the fascinating people who bring this food to our tables. In the end, Gifford reveals the pecan to be much more than a food, but also a cultural curiosity and even a metaphor for America itself, one whose diverse nature may be its greatest quality.
"Gifford brings the reader into orchards, processing centers, and festivals surrounding the pecan, illuminating some fo the rich stories behind this native tree and its growing agricultural industry."—New Mexico Historical Review
“In Pecan America, John Gifford takes an outwardly simple subject, the pecan, and reveals its historical richness, ecological significance, and cultural complexity. Pecan America is a delightful and informative journey into a beloved but at times misunderstood American food, and readers will be glad they accompanied Gifford on the adventure.”—Stephanie Anderson, author of One Size Fits None: A Farm Girl's Search for the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture
“If the thought of ancient midland groves that cheat the reaper of modernity electrifies you, then you’ll appreciate Gifford’s road trip into the heart of pecan country.”—George Frazier, author of The Last Wild Places of Kansas: Journeys into Hidden Landscapes
“Mark Kurlansky did it with books about cod and salt as did John McPhee in his classic immersion, Oranges. Now John Gifford has chosen to dramatically and vividly write the story of another single subject, an unlikely but fascinating cultural icon: the pecan. Gifford’s new book will be a compelling and illuminating read.”—Lee Gutkind, editor, Creative Nonfiction magazine
“John Gifford’s Pecan America is a passionate and authoritative look at the beloved tree and its nut that for generations has defined childhoods, neighborhoods, stretches of roadside, Christmas deliveries from down-the-street neighbors, and everyone’s favorite dessert at the nearby diner. In the deft hands of Gifford the pecan takes its rightful place among America’s great agricultural gifts. That it has demonstrable healing properties is an added bonus!”—Louisa McCune, executive director, Kirkpatrick Foundation
1. The Flood
2. Made in America
4. Pecans for Sale
5. Sheller's Market
6. Big Oil
7. Better by Nature
8. Assets and Liabilities
9. The American Pecan
10. Home of the Pecan Festival
About the Author