One of the most interesting food books of 2014 was Andrew Lawler’s Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization. In it, Lawler covers an epic story that spans centuries and continents, from ancient times to today’s grocery store aisles. How did one of the shyest birds, whose origin lies in Africa, become domesticated and so important to so many cultures worldwide?

Lawler describes how fried chicken has its origins in West Africa, and how the “backyard chicken movement is bringing roosters to towns and cities all over America.” He also discusses how enslaved African-Americans used their knowledge of poultry production to influence America’s dietary habits. This is a sweeping food history that by its nature, touches upon a number of important historical themes, but also simultaneously, proves relevant to contemporary issues. Brilliant.

National Geographic interviews Lawler, here.

Read the interview…you may also want to read the book. Both are fascinating.