At Mesa's Edge: Cooking and Ranching in Colorado's North Fork Valley

At Mesa's Edge: Cooking and Ranching in Colorado's North Fork Valley

by Eugenia Bone

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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.

Editorial Reviews

Saveur Magazine
“If you find lyrical writing a happy counterpoint to recipes, you’ll probably be charmed by At Mesa’s Edge.”—Saveur magazine
“Bone proves herself an Alice Waters of the outback.”—Outside magazine
USA Today
“At Mesa’s Edge stands out for its 100-page memoir on trading life in the city for life on a Colorado ranch. This is inspired reading.”—USA Today
“[Bone] proves she is heir, in a way, to Pat Wells and Peter Mayle.”—Newsweek
Jacques P�pin
“Original and sensuous. . . . An elegant writer, Eugenia Bone makes us aware of the profound intimacy between the cook and nature. . . . Unique and very personal recipes.”—Jacques Pépin

Alice Waters
“Eugenia Bone’s memoir and cookbook is the kind of book I love. It teaches us how, with a little curiosity and persistence, we can find food that connects us in a beautiful and profound way to the place in which we live.”—Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse
Publishers Weekly
In this engaging tale of modern-day homesteading, New York food writer Bone follows her husband's dream to Crawford, Colo., where they purchase and fix up a 45-acre ranch complete with 1880s cabin. There, she makes his Western dream her own. Bone chronicles her summer of culinary pioneering in a warm, chatty voice, always with a sense of humor about herself. With graceful prose, she details her gourmet adventures. She braves bee stings to pick zucchini flowers, then fries her harvest in beer batter, with a cilantro mayonnaise for dipping. She acquires a 20-gauge shotgun, hunts pheasants and bakes them with cream, horseradish and brandy. With elk she buys from a local rancher, she makes elk tenderloin with wild porcinis. Bone goes mushrooming, grows too many zucchinis and peppers and buys illegal unpasteurized goat cheese. By summer's end, she no longer yearns for multiplexes and lunch dates, has mastered the "cool wave" from the steering wheel and has learned to live in the moment. A wild food advocate and critic of industrialized agriculture, Bone exhorts readers to eat seasonally, suggesting 103 summer Italian- and Mexican-inspired recipes. From Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Smoked Trout to Chukar (a wild partridge) with Figs, the recipes rely on local ingredients Bone has in abundance. Though she does suggest alternative ingredients, some recipes feel too aspirational for even ambitious city or suburban dwellers. Others, like the Vegetable and Ricotta Terrine and the "sweet and piquant" Lamb Stew should tempt any cook with a good butcher or greengrocer. Agent, Elise Goodman. (June 10) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Fans of Frances Mayes's Under the Tuscan Sun will enjoy this fish-out-of-water story of a sudden homeowner in a strange land. This time it's a food writer from New York City who follows the whim of her husband in buying a broken-down ranch in Colorado to use as their summer home. Despite what she describes as serious misgivings, she goes along with her husband's idea of living close to the land. Initially, Bone packs in excessive quantities of expensive imported food fancy olive oil, Italian salami so that her family can eat in their usual way. But as she gradually tries more locally produced items and begins to hunt and grow her own food, she develops a strong connection to her new home and its people: "I have come to love this place, for its restorative powers, its beauty, and what it has taught me about living." But this is not just a memoir; Bone includes more than 100 recipes that use local meat and produce, and many dishes are adapted from old favorites, such as Elk Stroganoff or Macaroni and Cheese garnished with onion grass instead of chives. The satisfying story and delicious recipes will appeal to a variety of readers. Recommended for most public libraries. Julie James, Forsyth Cty. P.L., NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

University of Nebraska Press
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5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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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 children—Carson, a girl, who was seven, and Mo, a boy, who was five—not 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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