Book Reviews

Inspiring Cuisine: Damon Baehrel’s Native Harvest

Chef Damon Baehrel names as his favorite food – an apple. I find a crisp, slightly tart, juicy apple absolutely irresistible, he writes in his new book Native Harvest: The Inspirational Cuisine of Damon Baehrel (Lightbulb Press, New York, NY, 2016). It’s a cookbook without many recipes and a picture book without many finished dishes, but it’s […]

Sweet & Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup

One of North America’s gifts to the world is maple syrup. The earliest history of the process of boiling down maple sap to extract sugar is unknown but early European explorers and settlers observed native Americans do so and soon emulated them. By the early 18th century the conversion of sap to rock maple sugar […]

Seasonal Recipes from the Beekman Boys: The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook

It’s not surprising that a cookbook from the Beekman Boys would be a classy, useful tome: everything they present they present with commendable style. The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook (Sterling Epicure, New York, NY 2011) collects over a hundred recipes, nicely described and beautifully photographed by Paulette Taormina arranged by season and encouraging you to make the […]

Who Eviscerates The Turkeys Processed For The American Plate?

Dozens of men from Texas, with intellectual disabilities (guys with IQs of 60 and 70 in the words of their employer), wound up living for 30 plus years in virtual servitude in the small Iowa town of Atalissa (Muscatine County). They were there, a thousand miles from Texas, in order to provide grossly underpaid labor […]

Breakfast: How to cook southern in the Big City

You’d be hard pressed to find a more inviting and well-considered breakfast cookbook than Breakfast: Recipes to Wake Up For (Rizzoli, New York, NY, 2015), by George Weld and Evan Hanczor, the founder and chef, respectively, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s renowned farm-to-table restaurant, Egg. With a focus on classic southern staples (think grits, greens, bacon, eggs, and […]

Longer Lives for Dogs: Know Where Rover’s Food Comes From

Twenty-five years ago in 1991, a houndy looking lab, with some golden retriever thrown in, wandered into Ted Kerasote’s campground along the San Juan River in Utah, about 100 miles down the road from Moab. This 10 month old, half-wild mixed breed, named Merle by Kerasote, became his loving companion in a person-dog relationship that […]

Perfectly Written Recipes: The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook

Vermont may be a small state size-wise, both in area and population (sixth smallest in area with less than 10,000 square miles, and 49th in population with 626,042), but it looms large in the local, farm-to-table, good food movement.  This year, Vermont topped the Locavore Index (a measure of the strength of a state local food […]

A Garden’s Simple Food Inspires Alice Waters’ Flavorful New Recipes

Alice Waters hardly needs any introduction. For decades she has championed the cause of the organic food movement, strongly believing it is better for the environment and people’s health. A proponent of a food economy that is “good, clean and fair,” she has been in the forefront of the Slow Food Movement and since 2002 has […]

Urban Farmer Novella Carpenter’s Transformation of a Weedy Vacant Lot: A Story Told Well

Every city must have them: vacant lots where nothing grows but weeds, where the detritus from a busy metropolis blows in and collects in corners. Some people drive by those lots and see eyesores, just one more sign of a forsaken neighborhood. Novella Carpenter looked at the weedy 4,500-square-foot vacant lot in her Oakland, California, neighborhood (a postcard of […]

Apples Appreciated: Rowan Jacobsen’s Paean to Crisp, Sweet, Juicy & Complex

Thirty pages into Rowan Jacobsen’s Apples of Uncommon Character, 123 Heirlooms, Modern Classics, & Little-Known Wonders, Plus 20 Sweet and Savory Recipes (Bloomsbury USA, New York, New York, 2014) and I was considering how I had misspent my apple-eating life. I purchased whatever was inexpensive at the grocery store, without thinking about the whole apple universe […]

The Mitsitam Café Cookbook Inspires a Dinner Celebrating Virginia Peanuts, Salmon & Celery Root, With Maple Popcorn Balls For Dessert

Museums are rarely known for outstanding food. The often underwhelming and overpriced fare is usually best avoided, but the Mitsitam Native Foods Café  at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is the delicious exception to that rule. Since the museum’s opening in 2004, the Mitsitam Café has received great praise; according to The New York […]

Organic Farming’s Transformative Power: The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball (Scribner, New York, New York, 2011). The Dirty Life is Kristin Kimball’s story of discovering the two loves of her life – the love for her future husband, Mark, who she meets while on a journalism assignment, and the love for organic farming, […]

Julene Bair’s Memoir of Love and the Fizzling Out of Life on a Kansas Farm

The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning, by Julene Bair (Viking, New York, New York, 2014). The Ogallala Road is Julene Bair’s story of her family’s western Kansas farm, the impact of modern farming practices on the health and future of the Ogallala Aquifer and her search to define her connection with the land […]

More Than A Superb Cookbook: Darina Allen’s 30 Years at Ballymaloe

30 Years at Ballymaloe, by Darina Allen (Kyle Books, London, UK, 2014, Distributed by National Book Network, Lanham, MD).  This beautiful book is not so much a cookbook (although it contains over 100 recipes) but more the story of a journey.  From a culinary wilderness to the heights of excellence, a family’s journey fueled by […]

Michelle Obama’s American Grown, The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden established by Michelle Obama on the South Lawn of the White House is the first full scale vegetable garden on the grounds of the White House since Teddy Roosevelt served as president in 1902 (when the United States was still a nation of farmers).  Mrs. Obama’s tells the story of how, with […]

Savor, a Zen Master’s Recipe for Mindful Eating and Living

Michael Pollan’s insightful and simply-stated Food Rules have become well-known, especially his easy-to-comprehend mantra: “Eat Food, Real Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants.”  One of his rules that comes to my mind, on nearly a daily basis, is a rule which helps me to avoid overeating: “If You’re Not Hungry Enough to Eat an Apple, […]

Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, the New Illustrated Edition

The original edition of Michael Pollan’s  Food Rules, An Eater’s Manual came out a little more than three years ago, in January 2009.  Its publication immediately inspired readers to send Mr. Pollan suggestions for additional “rules.”   Pollan notes in his introduction to the new illustrated edition of Food Rules (The Penguin Press, New York, 2011) […]

Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow, A Life on the River

David Montgomery in his history of world agriculture, Dirt, the Erosion of Civilizations (University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, 2007) details the disappearance of various societies as the consequence of the abuse of the fertility of a civilization’s soil and the resulting inability to provide an adequate food supply.   Wendell Berry’s Jayber […]

Edible, An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants

Sitting in a coffee shop in an upstate New York town currently benefiting from a “buy local” main street revitalization, my senses are awakened by the intersection of two food plants from distant lands.  The barista, on day 23 of a Paleolithic diet, is peeling a grapefruit and the aromatic vapors are drifting across the […]

Carlo Petrini’s Terra Madre, Forging a New Global Network of Sustainable Food Communities

Carlo Petrini founded the Slow Food movement in 1989 as an outgrowth of  his campaign against the McDonald’s fast food chain opening near the Spanish Steps in Rome.  An international member-supported nonprofit association and a worldwide network of people, Slow Food is “committed to improving the way food is produced and distributed” [www.slowfood.com].  The organization […]

Dirt, The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery

The sky may not be falling, but the earth’s soil is eroding faster than it is being replaced and modern civilization’s future is endangered.  Our earth in David R. Montgomery’s words “is an oasis in space rendered hospitable by a thin skin of soil that, once lost, rebuilds only over geologic time.”  Mr. Montgomery makes […]

American Terroir, Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields

This past fall’s food festival of the Slow Food movement in Turin, Italy showcased 910 small-scale food producers from around the world.  The only products from the U.S.A. on exhibit were beers at the American Craft Brewers Association exhibit.  Disappointment over the lack of participation by small-scale food producers from the U.S.A. at the festival […]

Maria Rodale’s Organic Manifesto

Maria Rodale’s grandfather, J.I. Rodale, founded the magazine, Organic Farming and Gardening in 1942, and her parents, Robert and Ardath Rodale, likewise championed organic agriculture.  In their footsteps, Maria Rodale, an organic food activist, now challenges her readers in Organic Manifesto (Rodale, Inc. [distributed to the trade by Macmillan], New York, New York, 2010) to […]

Industrial Vegetable Production in California’s Salinas Valley

One small valley in California has become the center of vegetable production in the United States, with some remarkable production statistics. 99% of artichokes, 92% of broccoli, 94% of processing tomatoes, 94% of celery, 86% of garlic, 83% of cauliflower, 76% of head lettuce, 67% of carrots, and 58% of asparagus are grown in the […]

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