How To Cook A Crocodileby Bonnie Lee Black
Casting caution to the wind at the age of fifty, New York caterer and food writer Bonnie Lee Black decided to close her catering business and join the Peace Corps. Posted to the tiny town of Lastoursville in the thickly rainforested interior of Gabon, Central Africa, Bonnie taught health, nutrition, and cooking, in French, primarily to local African women and children… See more details below
Casting caution to the wind at the age of fifty, New York caterer and food writer Bonnie Lee Black decided to close her catering business and join the Peace Corps. Posted to the tiny town of Lastoursville in the thickly rainforested interior of Gabon, Central Africa, Bonnie taught health, nutrition, and cooking, in French, primarily to local African women and children. In the two years she served in Gabon, Bonnie developed her own healthy recipe for a purposeful life, made in equal measures of good food, safe shelter, meaningful work, and unexpected love. Like M.F.K. Fisher's classic, World War II-era book, How to Cook a Wolf, Bonnie's true stories comprise a lively, literary, present-day survival guide.
- Peace Corps Writers
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- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.91(d)
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Bonnie Lee Black's wonderful and beautifully written memoir weaves together several equally absorbing stories that in the end show us how the stuff of circumstance, good and bad, can be put to meaningful use in the course of a lifetime. In its design, the book artfully interleaves past and present, epigraph and photograph, anecdote and recipe. The story itself is highly entertaining and compelling -- it's a journey through half the lifetime of an extraordinary woman, around half the globe geographically and the entire world economically, and deep into the vocations of cook and Peace Corps worker. It is much more than a string of adventures -- it's an inside look at how the Peace Corps works, for one thing (how incredibly resourceful the individuals on the ground must be!) and at the real person who struggles to communicate, who must find myriad ways to accomplish her mission, who makes a home and true friends and finds love, and who goes on to new adventures (about which we may hope to read soon). In the end we have a plainly beautiful and honest account of the individual as an artist of her own good life.
How To Cook A Crocodile is one of those books that changed my life, or at least made me want to change to my life--to be a better person. It is stunningly beautiful. The writing, the author's life story, the recipes--gifts. I was expecting a leisurely tour of Africa; to be soaked in the environment of the rain forest the author lives in for two years--and I was. But more, the book reads like a mystery/thriller. The pages turn. The author takes up where she left off in Somewhere Child, a memoir she published 30 years earlier, a harrowing retelling of her attempts to get back her daughter who had been kidnapped by Ms. Black's husband. I won't spoil any plot twists here, but as How To Cook A Crocodile begins, we learn that the loss of her daughter messed up Ms. Black for years, and she fought hard to find peace. Part of her road back to sanity included the rather insane choice of starting up a gourmet catering company in NYC. As a longtime cater waiter, I can tell you Ms. Black nailed NYC high society. Nailed is the wrong word. She describes the wealthy set lovingly but accurately, calling out one horrific evening of food service that brought me back to nights that crushed my spirit. But Ms. Black is one tough human being, and she, in keeping with her other-centric, selfless character, signs on to the Peace Corps and dedicates herself to bringing her love of food and her love in general to the villagers in Latoursville, Gabon. What she gets in return blew her--and me--away. The moral code--the selflessness--with which the folks in Latoursville live was a blueprint for me, a home renovation plan for the human spirit, one that might bring us back to what we're capable of: seemingly bottomless compassion. How To Cook A Crocodile reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love, another story I loved. Both books are about self-discovery, about love of humanity and laughter and certainly love of good food, about finding the courage to forgive oneself, but Ms. Black's book offers something more to her readers or at least this one: the sense from page one that we're already perfect. That we have all we need to cope with any challenge, whether it be the simple act of trying to keep a dish cold in hundred degree heat or losing a child or peacefully but passionately standing up to those who are deforesting Africa. Ms. Black, without preaching, by way of her wonderfully humorous stories, teaches us that we needn't fear the pain we feel; we needn't dwell in it either; we need to go through it with the knowledge that the simple act of trying to make even the tiniest bit of our world a better place is a remarkably powerful act; that the gift we give, whatever it is, will last long after we're gone. I loved this book so much.