At Mesa's Edge: Cooking and Ranching in Colorado's North Fork Valleyby Eugenia Bone
Although Eugenia Bone was perfectly happy with her life as a New York City food writer, she knew that her husband, a transplanted westerner, was filled with a discontent he couldn’t explain. So when he returned from a fishing trip in the Rockies one day and announced that he wanted to buy a forty-five-acre ranch in Crawford, Colorado (population 404), she
Although Eugenia Bone was perfectly happy with her life as a New York City food writer, she knew that her husband, a transplanted westerner, was filled with a discontent he couldn’t explain. So when he returned from a fishing trip in the Rockies one day and announced that he wanted to buy a forty-five-acre ranch in Crawford, Colorado (population 404), she reluctantly said yes. She then loaded imported pasta, artichokes in oil, and cured Italian salami into her duffle bag, and headed west with her two young children.
At Mesa’s Edge is a witty, often moving story of ranch restoration and of struggles with defiant skunks, barbed wire, marauding cows, and loneliness. Eugenia learns to garden in the drought, to fly-fish, and to forage, all the while discovering the bounty of the region. She fries zucchini flowers in batter and dips them in cilantro-flavored mayonnaise, grills flavorful T-bones from the local ranchers’ grass-fed beef, pan-fries trout, fills crepes with wild mushrooms, and makes cherry pies with thick, sugary crusts. Gradually, she begins to adjust to the rhythms of the land.
Partly a memoir, partly a cookbook with more than one hundred appealing recipes, At Mesa’s Edge is a transporting tale of rejuvenation, a celebration of everything local, and a reminder that the best food is to be found in our own backyards.
- University of Nebraska Press
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- 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Read an Excerpt
Introduction: The North Fork Valley
I agreed to buy our forty-five-acre ranch sight unseen after my husband, Kevin, came back from a fishing trip to Colorado’s North Fork Valley. It had been coming on for a few years: while I was perfectly happy with our life in New York City and the occasional trip abroad, Kevin suffered from a kind of yearning without name, a desire he couldn’t articulate, a lack of vigor and contentment that would have been mopey in a lesser man. There was, quite simply, an empty place in him that was not being filled: not by our marriage, not by our childrenCarson, a girl, who was seven, and Mo, a boy, who was fivenot by his work as an architect and a professor. I signed the mortgage papers the same way I would sign a release for Kevin to have necessary surgery: it had to be done.
The North Fork Valley lies on the western side of the Rocky Mountains due west of Colorado Springs. Its streams drain the Grand Mesa, the Ragged Mountains, and the West Elk mountain range into the Gunnison River. (The Gunnison is a major tributary of the Colorado River.) The valley runs from east to west, with the towns of Delta, Hotchkiss, and Paonia situated in fertile bottomlands 5,000 to 6,300 feet above sea level. Crawford, where our ranch is located, lies on a mesa above the Smith Fork River, another of the Gunnison’s feeder streams.
The entire valley is surrounded by public lands. To the southwest is the Gunnison National Forest, which is about the size of Delaware. To the north is the Grand Mesa National Forest, the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. To the southwest is the Uncompahgre (UN-com-pa-GRAY) National Forest, and directly south, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
It sounded like scenic beauty abounded, but Kevin didn’t let me see the place for six months. When we talked on the phone, he alluded to a few problems: exploded toilets, big-rig oil spills, and mounds of rotting carcasses left over from years of poaching. He mentioned the skunks living under the house and the pack rats living in the ceiling. I knew there were plenty of other problems, too, but Kevin didn’t share them all with me. He was, in fact, rather evasive on the subject of the ranch’s condition. No matter: I was in denial and didn’t ask too many questions.
As work on the ranch progressed, I started to worry about this mysterious place I would have to call home. I had never been west of the Rockies, unless you count a short, wild trip to Los Angeles, which I only vaguely remember. I was worried that my children would be run down by mountain lions, mauled by grizzly bears, surprised by rattlers. Was I going to be stranded, miles from hospitals, firehouses, and the Gap? And what would I do for company? What, after all, did I have in common with cattlemen? What was an Italian girl like me going to eat? There was only one way to find out. And so we went west.
Copyright © 2004 by Eugenia Bone. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Meet the Author
Eugenia Bone is the author of Mycophilia: New Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms, Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods, and Italian Family Dining, written with her father, Edward Giobbi. She also writes a blog for the Denver Post about preserving foods, called Well Preserved.
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