pierre laszlo

Reviews of my Books
Citrus review by Tim Longville

A book review by Tim Longville, in Hortus, 23(2), summer 2009, pp. 113-8

This book, unfussily but handsomely designed and produced (good paper, print given room to breathe, a central section of colour illustrations on art paper, sharply printed at a good size), is not about either gardens or gardening. But it is a book about plants and people and how the latter have used the former - for pleasure, profit and ‘psychological relief’ (including that provided by religious symbolism) - and therefore of considerable interest to any curious gardener. Its author is a retired professor of chemistry who has lived, taught and engaged in research all over the world, including in France, Britain, Belgium, Brazil, America and New Zealand. So, unsurprisingly, there is much in his pages about the biology and chemistry of his chosen group of plants - a group which of course includes all the many varieties of oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes but also such relative oddities as calamandrins, kumquats and uglis. (At the end of one of the more formidable of those episodes of chemical analysis, he adds with characteristic charm - and the equally characteristic gentle teacher-ly hint that you could do better if you tried -, ‘You are forgiven if you skipped the last paragraph.’ Not all of the Professor’s scientific detail is formidable, though. Some is simply, ah, fascinating. For example, if I understand him correctly, the effects of Viagra are apparently increased by a regular intake of grapefruit, since that fruit contains chemicals [bergapten and bergamotin] which deactivate an enzyme in the small intestine which otherwise damages such ‘medications’ before they get into the bloodstream. Cue a rush on grapefruit once the news gets out?)

an appreciation culled from the Web

Communicating Science

an appreciation culled from the Web (www.scienceblog.com)

Communicating Science to Broader Audiences

Wed, 2007-01-10 18:06 — dnlee5
I recently attended a workshop that touched on the ever important issue - communicating science to the general public. The discussion was intriguing and informative, but I still felt a little hungry for information.

My google searches yielded the discovery of a bonafide conference/workshop about this topic. On April 12-13, 2007, the University of Nebraska-Linclon campus is hosting a conference. I'll be there.

here's the link:

I was gifted a wonderful book entitled "Communicating Science" by Pierre Laszlo. It's divided into three sections: a) communicating with fellow scientists, b) communicating with general audiences, and c) communicating with policy-makers.
I've read the entire book already. If I were still taking classes, I'd love to take a seminar-style class on this topic and use this book.

Salt | Grain of Life Review By Toronto Globe and Mail

Toronto Globe and Mail Saturday,     January 26, 2002
Salt’s savoury story
Reviewed By Zsuzsi Gartner
Salt: A World History
By Mark Kurlansky
Knopf Canada, 496 pages, $34.95
Salt: Grain of Life
By Pierre Laszlo
Translated by Mary Beth Mader
Columbia University Press,
194 pages, $35.50

Somewhere high above New York’s Rockefeller Plaza in an AOL
Time Warner boardroom, the movie of the century (never mind that
the century is still a toddler and not yet toilet-trained) is being
discussed. Someone in a nubbly prosciutto-toned linen Nehru jacket
who just flew in from L.A. is talking epic, is talking spin-offs, is
talking tie-ins, is talking action figures, is talking point-of-purchase,
is talking about the ching-ching-ching of a hundred thousand cash registers singing. “Okay, so we have
Sinbad meets The Last Emperor meets The Ten Commandments meets Gladiator meets The Scarlet
Pimpernel meets Gone With the Wind meets Gandhi meets Giant meets The China Syndrome and Erin
Brockovitch with heavy dashes of Babette’s Feast and Emeril Live!”

The author of the property in question, sitting hitherto unnoticed on a
chair by the window, slides to the floor. “Get the smelling salts!”
someone yells—because they once heard this in a movie and
because, well, some salt in the proceedings at this juncture seems

Citrus review by Michael S. Gant

Citrus: A History

Review by Michael S. Gant

Pierre Laszlo's curious study of oranges, lemons, clementines, grapefruits and more tart treats skips lightly through the botanical and cultural history of the fruit that conquered scurvy on the high seas and helped kick-start the 20th-century economies of California and Florida. This erudite gallimaufry (a chemist by trade, Laszlo has also written a book devoted entirely to salt) offers detours on everything from the construction of Italian orangeries to the sometimes sordid politics of early Southern California (the aside on citrus land baron George Chaffey, who also created the Mutual Water Company, sounds like the source material for Chinatown). The text takes time out for recipes (the lime chutney sounds good) and citrus imagery in art and poetry. A segment (that's plainly the right word in this context) discusses the themes and motifs of California orange-crate labels, of which, the author calculates, there are some 8,000 designs (thus explaining their persistent abundance in antique stores). Oranges ripen in winter, which adds to the seasonal nature of this tangy grab bag.

(By Pierre Laszlo; University of Chicago; 262 pages; $25 cloth)

Citrus review by Natural History

Citrus: A History,

by Pierre Laszlo (The University of Chicago Press, 2007; $25.00)

Can one describe a work of nonfiction as being happy? Well, this one is. Pierre Laszlo, a retired chemistry professor turned science writer, has approached the lore of citrus fruit with the élan of a master chef (the man is French, after all), mixing history, economics, biology, and chemistry to produce a book that will bring a smile to readers of every taste. Until reading Citrus, in fact, I had not realized just how many tastes the title implied: lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit, of course, but also citron, tangerine, kumquat, calamondin, and the self-descriptive Ugli, not to mention such variants as bergamot, mandarin, Valencia, ortanique, and Honey Murcott. Laszlo’s literary method is to present them as characters in an unfolding story. He begins with the domestication of the citron in Persia and the early history of citrus horticulture, then moves to the establishment and growth of the citrus industry in Florida, California, and Brazil, and finally, after many diversions and digressions, arrives at a final section that explores the place of citrus in literature, art, religion, and the culture of cuisine.

Citrus review by Times Higher Education Supplement

A zest for juicy anecdotes

Sheila Dillon
Published: 02 November 2007
Price: £14.00

Sheila Dillon savours a delicious oddity full of pithy, eccentric facts to whet a gourmet's appetite.
Citrus is the most recently published example of a modern genre - history told through a particular ingredient: salt, spices, cod, vanilla, quinine (as the flavour in tonic water) and more. Some have been bestsellers. Some have been scholarly and well-written. But it seems the fatter we get, the greater our consumption of processed food, the more we want to read about food in everything from ghostwritten glossy tomes by TV chefs to these new histories. Sales in all genres are highest in the two countries with the worst diets and most barren food cultures - the US and Britain. There must be PhD theses being written on the subject all over the Western world.

Citrus review by New Scientist
    •    Citrus: A history
    •    by Pierre Laszlo
    •    University of Chicago Press
    •    $25/£14
    •    ISBN 9780226470269

DID you know there are a billion citrus trees under cultivation, or that grapefruit juice may potentiate the effects of Viagra? Citrus mines over two millennia of history to explore the spread of these fruits out of Asia, their commercialisation in the US and enduring symbolism the world over. Laszlo, a chemistry professor, has written flavourful chapters on the discovery of vitamin C and the remarkable marketing success of orange juice. But if you don't share his passion, his lively style and pithy facts just aren't enough to bind such wide-ranging segments into a satisfying whole.
From issue 2627 of New Scientist magazine, 27 October 2007, page 58
Citrus review by Financial Times

Simply the zest

By Ian Irvine
Published: September 29 2007 03:00 | Last updated: September 29 2007 03:00

A short but brilliant account of 6,000 years of citrus fruits should be devoured with fervour - but a history of beans is stodgier fare. By Ian Irvine

Citrus: A History
by Pierre Laszlo
University of Chicago Press $25, 239 pages
Beans: A History
by Ken Albala
Berg £14.99, 261 pages
FT bookshop price: £11.99

"Do you know the country where the lemon trees bloom/ Where the golden oranges glow among dark leaves?" The citruses in Goethe's poem about Italy symbolise the country's warmth and abundance. In northern Europe these fruits have always been associated with health, prosperity and luxurious ease. Today, a billion trees cultivated across the world produce 100 million tons of citrus annually. More than 1,500 species exist, including the Clementine, created in France in the 19th century, and the Ugli, developed in California in the 1940s. The ease with which they can be crossed is still producing new commercial varieties.

Native to Asia, citruses were first cultivated in Persia. Seeds more than 6,000 years old have been found in Iraq. Alexander the Great brought them to the Mediterranean. The Arabs' conquest of southern Spain brought cultivation to a peak in Andalucia, through application of their irrigation and horticultural skills.

Citrus review by Telegraph

The kitchen thinker

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 02/12/2007

Bee Wilson is sweet on avocados

In this enlightened age, prejudice is regarded as evil. But culinary prejudices are often useful. They give meals a sense of order. Without prejudice to stop us, we might eat raw potatoes and pour gravy on our apple pie instead of cream. Some people don't have nearly enough prejudices about food. How else to explain 'popcorn chicken' or yogurts that you squeeze straight into your mouth? Prejudice should tell you that you can't make popcorn out of chicken and that to eat a yogurt you need a spoon. It's basic, really.

Having said that, it is sometimes good to have our prejudices shaken up a bit. One of my most fiercely held beliefs for many years was that avocados are necessarily savoury rather than sweet. The idea of eating avocados for pudding seemed like 1970s cooking at its worst. It turned my stomach to think of it.

Then my sister introduced me to a weird smoothie that a friend of hers had learnt to make in Morocco. It consisted of one avocado, one banana, a slug of milk, a spoonful of sugar and a dusting of cardamom, all blitzed together to a pale olive emulsion. To my surprise, it tasted pretty good.

More recently, I was reading Citrus (Chicago University Press), an absorbing new history book. The author, Pierre Laszlo, claims that the 'yummiest of desserts' is to be made by mashing ripe avocado with lime juice before stirring in granulated sugar to taste. The acidity from the lime turns the avocado 'into a smooth fluid cream'. I was sceptical. Then I made it, and found it was indeed - if not the 'yummiest dessert' ever - really rather nice. If you can only get over the idea that sugary avocado is revolting, there is something soothing about this pudding, a sort of dairy-free fool. It would be good served in tiny pots with a crisp lime-scented biscuit.

Citrus review by Nature

Nature 450, 479 (22 November 2007) | doi:10.1038/450479a; Published online 21 November 2007

Flavour and plenty

Peter Barham1

There may be more to great dishes than a dash of chemistry and a squeeze of lime juice.
BOOK REVIEWED-Citrus: A History

by Pierre Laszlo

University of Chicago Press: 2007. 262 pp. $25
BOOK REVIEWED-Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking

by Hervé This

Columbia University Press: 2007. 232 pp. $22.95, £13.95


Flavour and plenty


Gastronomy alfresco: does food really taste better outdoors?

Many supermarkets offer a year-round array of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses. For the first time in history, our eating habits are no longer dictated by seasons or climate. How did we reach this situation of plenty, in which cooking and eating are driven by pleasure as well as hunger? Only a few decades ago, bananas were a luxury in northern countries and strawberries arrived in time for tennis at Wimbledon. Citrus and Kitchen Mysteries dig into these issues in different and complementary ways.

Pierre Laszlo looks at the widespread availability of citrus fruits as an example of how foodstuffs have been propagated around the world in response to religious, economic and political trends over the centuries. Citrus fruits originated in Asia and were later enjoyed by the Romans and cultivated in southern Europe, having been introduced in about 300 BC by Alexander the Great. The conquering Spanish and Portuguese brought them to the New World. Laszlo highlights technological developments that have contributed to the global spread of citrus fruits — for example, the creation of new strains that can grow in different climates or have increased resistance to diseases or variations in flavour. He describes advances in juice extraction, packaging, storage and transport.

Citrus review by Chronicle of Higher Education

'Citrus: A History'


Mining peel, pith, and pulp, Citrus: A History (University of Chicago Press) is new from Pierre Laszlo, a chemist who enjoys a cultural ramble.

As with his 2001 book on salt, Mr. Laszlo takes a single subject down many paths, among them botany, commerce, exploration, art, literature, perfumery, cuisine, and a little autobiography. The author recalls a French childhood of "minimal fruit diversity." Even past the deprivations of World War II, citrus was a treat for the holidays, says the scholar, now an emeritus professor at Belgium's University of Liège.

Citrus first spread from Asia, he says, with the Indian conquests of Alexander the Great. Mr. Laszlo links aspects of its further spread and survival to religious groups. In the Mediterranean region, he writes, the Jewish diaspora ringed that sea with citrus as Jews preserved the seeds of a lemonlike fruit essential for autumn's Sukkot celebrations. Later, Muslims established a lasting presence for citrus in Moorish Iberia. Tracing Spanish and Portuguese explorations, the author follows citrus from Old World to New, most notably to Brazil in the early 1500s. There, the story goes, a convict castaway from a Portuguese ship fathered both Brazilian citriculture and dozens of children with indigenous women.

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