Book Review: Death in the Pot

Death in the Pot: The Impact of Food Poisoning on HistoryDeath in the Pot: The Impact of Food Poisoning on History by Morton Satin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this book to research some theories about historical influences that I have long suspected–such as the impact of lead poisoning on the rulers of Rome. While I enjoyed the material, I found his opinions having nothing to do with the historical material to be annoying. For example, “Unfortunately, the impact of global warming upon the Arctic waters may soon make the Northwest Passage a practical reality” (p 139). I am reading a book on the history of food poisoning presented by a molecular biologist. I’m not interested in the author’s take on Climate Change. Perhaps it would have been received well if he had been speaking about the possibility of famine, rather than navigation.

There were also some ‘unfortunate’ editing errors that I found unnerving. For example, “Books such as Your Money’s Worth, 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs, and the American Chamber of Horrors stimulated the…” (p 162). It would have been nice to break that up with semicolons or by rewriting. This is not the only example where a better job of editing would have been helpful.

Otherwise, the information was helpful and fairly entertaining. The arguments were pretty good in support of his conclusions–at least as well as is possible when dealing with historical matters. He obviously finds it easier to speak more authoritatively about events in modern history–judging by the amount of material dedicated to each period.

If you are looking for a book that concentrates on ancient history and food, then this will not satisfy because less than half covers that period. If you want a good general overview with a concentration in industrial and modern history then this one works well. It is also a good introduction to an area of historical research often overlooked.

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Ken Cluck
Senior Pastor at Resurgent
Ken has served in various cultures and settings, including two Native American reservations, rural communities, Korean churches, and has worked with Asian refugees living in the US.

Ken's passions are Theology, Philosophy (especially Philosophy of Religion, Ethics and Logic), History and Politics.

Ken has been married to his wife, Yong, since 1987. She is the center of his world and the greatest joy of his life.