A good book, think of it as a more general (non-technical) economic history of wheat, authored by Scott Reynolds Nelson. The sad thing is the book’s subtitle: “How American Wheat Made the World” — yes it covers America, but a lot of the book, and I would say its best parts, focus on Russia and Ukraine.
I guess the publisher figured American readers don’t care that much about Ukraine? Here is one excerpt:
Before Odessa [which had just been described as a major grain port], the Russian Empire had expanded slowly and defensively, one line of forts at a time. After Odessa, Russia — just like the United States — possessed foreign exchange and could expand dramatically. Wheat exports allowed the Russian Empire to fund its foreign wars, and so it surged into Poland, across the Caspian Sea, and toward China. Nothing seemed capable of stopping the yeasty, kvassy expansion of the Russian Empire. In fact, the spread of a different invisible creature, an invisible water mold, would further entrench Odessa as Europe’s city of wheat.
Fish sandwiches emerged as a regular meal for workers in Britain around 1870 once American grain arrived; a decade later this became fish and chips.
A fun book for me.