Harvest: Field Notes from a Far-Flung Pursuit of Real Foodby Max Watman
After an epiphany caused by a harrowing bite into a pink-slime burger, Max Watman resolves to hunt, fish, bake, butcher, preserve, and pickle. He buys a thousand-pound-steerwhom he names Bubblesraises chickens, gardens, and works to transform his small-town
Max Watman’s compulsively readable memoir of his dogged quest to craft meals from scratch.
After an epiphany caused by a harrowing bite into a pink-slime burger, Max Watman resolves to hunt, fish, bake, butcher, preserve, and pickle. He buys a thousand-pound-steerwhom he names Bubblesraises chickens, gardens, and works to transform his small-town home into a gastronomic paradise. In this compulsively readable memoir, Watman records his experiments and adventures as he tries to live closer to the land and the source of his food.
A lively raconteur, Watman draws upon his youth in rural Virginia with foodie parentslocavores before that word existedhis time cooking in restaurants, and his love of the kitchen.Amid trial and experiment, there is bound to be heartbreak. Despite a class in cheese making from a local expert, his carefully crafted Camembert resembles a chalky hockey puck. Much worse, his beloved hens"the girls," as he calls themare methodically attacked by a varmint, and he falls into desperate measures to defend them. Finally, he loses track of where exactly Bubbles the steer is.Watman perseveres, and his story culminates in moments of redemption: a spectacular prairie sunset in North Dakota; watching 10,000 pheasants fly overhead; eating fritters of foraged periwinkles and seawater risotto; beachside with his son; a tub of homemade kimchi that snaps and crunches with fresh, lively flavor well after the last harvest.With infectious enthusiasm, Watman brings the reader to the furthest corners of culinary exploration. He learns that the value of living from scratch is in the trying. With a blend of down-home spirit and writing panache, he serves up a delectable taste of farm lifeminus the farm.
Watman (Chasing the White Dog) shares his knowledge on how to make cheese, kill or catch your dinner, grow tomatoes or find edible plants in your neighborhood, and along the way turns his triumphs and tribulations into endearing stories that have a hint of expertise and a big dose of seat-of-your-pants gusto. The main reoccurring storyline running through the book—Watman purchasing his own 675-lb. steer (nicknamed Bubbles)—is a perfect example of Watman’s go-big-or-go-home approach to taking control of not only where his family’s food comes from but also how it is prepared. Watman’s self-deprecating, conversational prose is a refreshing antidote to some foodie writers who take themselves too seriously, and he makes it clear that this isn’t just about one year of doing these things but a true life change makes his adventures all the more poignant. Also, his motto to “Fail again, fail better” should be a great motivator for those who have been too afraid to make their own charcuterie or shoot the raccoon eating their chickens, and demonstrates why this book succeeds not only as a memoir but also as a work to inspire everyone to try new things regardless of expertise. (Mar.)
Hudson Valley writer Watman (Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine, 2010) charts his adventures in sourcing or producing whole foods in more direct ways, without the polemical emphasis on locavore movements, environmental politics, corporate agriculture or related issues. The author cites a few choice quotes from other writers, including Aaron Bobrow-Strain (White Bread, 2012) and Betty Fussell (Raising Steaks, 2008), which add background to the concern for remedying the nation's food, and features passages that detail problems such as the use of bisphenol A in the canning process. However, his own stance is that food should "be fun" and not a cause for stress. Raised in a family that worked in a culinary cottage industry, Watman details a different project in each chapter. From a failed effort at producing Camembert to the pleasures of raising chickens despite their eventual deaths, the thrill of hunting pheasants in North Dakota to grinding his own sausages and planting chili peppers, food has served as a pathway for enjoyment. For readers intrigued by personal back-to-the-land cooking journeys, Watman is honest in his admission of the "deep foodie DIY production" that entailed difficult ingredients and unusual forays. Each attempt, however, remained grounded in his desire to broaden his family's palate with less commercially processed fare; there is little sense of advocating for broader-scale changes, nor moralizing on the eating habits of others. In the strongest chapters, Watman weaves childhood memories, such as making cornichons, into accounts of his more current experiments. Watman's mistakes and triumphs have served as steppingstones on an impressively determined course. With an essayist's flair for careful description, this is an entertaining, if not eye-opening, look at one man's passion for the pleasures of the table. Recommended as a congenial overview of homespun ideals.
One man's revolt against the "pink-slime cheeseburger" turns into a quest to create real food. Watman illustrates that the path to crafting food is not always a smooth one.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Meet the Author
Max Watman is the author of Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine and Race Day: A Spot on the Rail with Max Watman. Raised in the mountains of Virginia and the kitchens of Washington DC, he currently lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife and son.
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