To Eat: A Country Life

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Overview

A memorable book about the path food travels from garden to table

 

A celebration of life together, a tribute to an utterly unique garden, a wonderfully idiosyncratic guide for cooks and gardeners interested in exploring the possibilities of farm-to-table living—To Eat is all of these things and more.

In 1974, Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd moved from Boston to southern Vermont, where they became the proprietors of a twenty-eight-acre patch ...

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Overview

A memorable book about the path food travels from garden to table

 

A celebration of life together, a tribute to an utterly unique garden, a wonderfully idiosyncratic guide for cooks and gardeners interested in exploring the possibilities of farm-to-table living—To Eat is all of these things and more.

In 1974, Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd moved from Boston to southern Vermont, where they became the proprietors of a twenty-eight-acre patch of wilderness. The land was forested, overgrown, and wild, complete with a stream. Today, North Hill’s seven carefully cultivated acres—open to visitors during the warmer months—are an internationally renowned garden.

In the intervening years, both the garden and the gardening books (A Year at North Hill, Living Seasonally, Our Life in Gardens) Eck and Winterrowd created together have been acclaimed in many forms, including in the pages of The New York Times. They were at work on To Eat—which also includes recipes from the renowned chef and restaurateur Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta and beautiful illustrations from their long-time collaborator Bobbi Angell—when Winterrowd passed away, in 2010.

Informative, funny, and moving, the delights within—a runaway bull; a recipe for crisp, fatty chicarrones; a personal history of the Egyptian onion; a hymn to the magic of lettuce—are sure to make To Eat a book readers return to again and again.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At their home in North Hill, Vt., Eck and Winterrowd (who died in 2010, when this book was in progress) nurtured a seven-acre garden, reveling in its bounty and embracing harmony with nature. These elegant reflections on gardening and the vegetables and fruits they grow, harvest, and eat over four seasons offer a joyous celebration of our connection to food and the Earth. Writing about our attitude toward what we eat, for example, they observe that “we misuse our food. We treat it as a mere necessity when it is in fact an enormous pleasure... A simple cabbage or broccoli or cauliflower is, however you prepare it, goodness and pleasure, and what else ought we to seek in our lives?” About blueberries, they have the following to say: “Blueberries have every virtue. They are handsomely shaped, with dark sinuous twigging and foliage that in autumn turns a brilliant red.” And on the artistic side of gardening, they write, “If gardening has a purpose, it is to engender plenitude, a delicious human fantasy that want is banished... the Eden of our imaginations, here and now.” Gardeners and cooks should have a copy of this book, beautifully illustrated by Bobbi Angell and with recipes by Beatrice Tosti de Valminuta, in their kitchens, next to their garden tools, or on their nightstands. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
The encyclopedic work of two masterful gardeners presents an idyllic picture of Vermont country life. For Eck and Winterrowd (Our Life in Gardens, 2009), their farm in southern Vermont has always been a little piece of heaven on earth. Here, the authors plant a lifetime of knowledge in this collection of short essays, each one focused on a different edible product of their land and labor. Far from the popular trend of urbanites-turned-farmers-turned-writers, however, Eck and Winterrowd bring more than 40 years of experience to the table, championing "the vital human need" to witness hard work and achievement united by dirt and patience. Unlike other textbook-dry treatises on the do's and don'ts of gardening, the writing here is as rich as dark soil. Mixed in with cultural and botanical histories of apples, asparagus and beets are practical tips and gardening secrets for the seasoned and beginner gardener alike. The authors colorfully render daily life with the companionship of pigs, hens and cows, and the home cook finds bounty here too; rare recipes, sourced from Italian grandmothers, first-century cookbooks and other corners of the authors' well-traveled lives, pepper the pages. Eck and Winterrowd celebrate good eating and good living with a kind of reverence reminiscent of Wendell Berry and a sensuality that evokes M.F.K. Fisher. Notably, Winterrowd died before the book's publication, and Eck's obvious grief and heartache strike a quiet but heavy chord. It's a memoir about falling in love continuously, season after season, and a lesson in caring tenderly for each other and the land. Full and fragrant, this book will satisfy the appetite of anyone with a taste for simple pleasures.
From the Publisher
Praise for To Eat

“The vegetable garden at North Hill always enchants me, and therefore it is a particular pleasure to read of its bounty in this last collaboration between Joe and Wayne.” —Page Dickey, author of Embroidered Ground

To Eat: A Country Life, Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd’s last book together (Winterrowd died in 2010), is an artful tribute to their 7-acre southern Vermont garden and their passion for raising, preparing and eating food together. Even lettuce becomes luxuriant in their exuberant and informative hands. Bobbi Angell’s drawings and Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta’s recipes, along with Eck and Winterrowd’s elegant prose, take readers through the northern New England seasons, featuring one food per chapter. The book is seasoned with history, anecdotes and abundant practical advice, and with reverence for land and tradition: ‘the deepest reward of a country life is that its deliberate embrace of a small conserving ethic opens one to the rhythms, values, habits and flavors of another time.’ Whether or not you garden, To Eat is a vicarious pleasure.” —Deb Baker, The Concord Monitor

“Part memoir, part cookbook, part gardening book, To Eat: A Country Life is a delight. Fans of the authors’ previous books, among them A Year at North Hill: Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden and Our Life in Gardens, will find similar rewards in the latest offering in which educated musings on country life and growing tips are delivered in prose more akin to poetry and literature . . . They, and their writing, are to gardening what M.F.K. Fisher was to food: a revelation . . . The book brings both laughter and tears. The afterword is particularly solemn. Wayne Winterrowd died in 2010 in the middle of writing the book, and it will be the last joint effort by the pair. Loss, in life and in the garden, is a bitter truth.” —Erinn Beth Langille, Macleans

“For foodies as much as for gardeners, this savory collection of anecdotes about farming is a testament to the joy and reward of labor and achievement … Authors Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd describe how they spent decades raising various crops in southern Vermont. They offer tips on soil as well as recipes for preparing fresh-grown food. It is hard not to appreciate beets or salivate over illustrator Bobbi Angell’s descriptions of Winterrowd’s blueberry pie.” —Gary M. Kramer, Instinct Magazine

“These elegant reflections on gardening and the vegetables and fruits they grow, harvest, and eat over four seasons offer a joyous celebration of our connection to food and the Earth . . . Gardeners and cooks should have a copy of this book, beautifully illustrated by Bobbi Angell and with recipes by Beatrice Tosti de Valminuta, in their kitchens, next to their garden tools, or on their nightstands.” —Publishers Weekly

“A pig named Morose, a bull called Hadrian, recipes for carrot cake and oxtail stew, the advantages of cold storage, and the appeal of cippolini onions. Such is the evidence of a life lived well and deliberately, a commitment Eck and his partner, Winterrowd, made early on in their 42-year personal and professional relationship. In this bittersweet memoir, Eck’s preface reveals that Winterrowd died before the book was completed; the afterword should come complete with hankies. In between are endearing and educational glimpses into their gardening practices and gustatory preferences, their peripatetic journeys and permanent joys . . . Readers will delight in this exuberant paean to the pleasures and benefits of growing one’s own food, elegiac homage to how Eck and Winterrowd celebrated the bounty such labors bestowed, and Eck’s reflections on daily changes and seasonal challenges at Vermont’s North Hill Farm. Eck and Winterrowd will inspire even the most reluctant gardeners to take steps to harvest a more rewarding life.” –Carol Haggas, Booklist

“Here, the authors plant a lifetime of knowledge in this collection of short essays, each one focused on a different edible product of their land and labor. Far from the popular trend of urbanites-turned-farmers-turned-writers, however, Eck and Winterrowd bring more than 40 years of experience to the table, championing “the vital human need” to witness hard work and achievement united by dirt and patience. Unlike other textbook-dry treatises on the do’s and don’ts of gardening, the writing here is as rich as dark soil. Mixed in with cultural and botanical histories of apples, asparagus and beets are practical tips and gardening secrets for the seasoned and beginner gardener alike. The authors colorfully render daily life with the companionship of pigs, hens and cows, and the home cook finds bounty here too; rare recipes, sourced from Italian grandmothers, first-century cookbooks and other corners of the authors’ well-traveled lives, pepper the pages. Eck and Winterrowd celebrate good eating and good living with a kind of reverence reminiscent of Wendell Berry and a sensuality that evokes M.F.K. Fisher. Notably, Winterrowd died before the book’s publication, and Eck’s obvious grief and heartache strike a quiet but heavy chord. It’s a memoir about falling in love continuously, season after season, and a lesson in caring tenderly for each other and the land. Full and fragrant, this book will satisfy the appetite of anyone with a taste for simple pleasures.” —Kirkus

“A beautiful, passionately conceived memoir steeped in flora, fauna, and a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, all cultivated with enduring love and tenderness.” —Jim Piechota, The Bay Area Reporter

“An unusual and introspective guide to growing and cooking one's own food filled with anecdotes of [the authors’] remarkable journey back to the earth.” —Amy J. Barry, The Day

“[To Eat is] a tribute to gardening and to knowing what’s really on your plate . . . Partly a love letter to the earth, and partly a paean to good eating, To Eat is one of those delicious little books that, like a great meal, you’ll want to savor. With the circumspection of veteran gardeners, New England authors Joe Eck and the late Wayne Winterrowd share their observations about growing plants, livestock, and together. I took great delight in their quietly humorous stories of being gentlemen farmers; if you’re a gardener, you’ll find solid tips in each quick-to-read chapter and if you’re a gourmand, you’ll drool at the recipes here, too. At just under two hundred pages, this book will last you through two or three quick lunches or meal-preps, and it may give you some new ideas. So grab To Eat and take a bite.” —Terri Schlichenmeyer, Naples Daily News

“[To Eat is a] delightful discussion of various vegetables, poultry and animals on their North Hill Farm in Vermont. Included are several intriguing recipes. The book is filled with great advice—based on 30 years experience—for growing leeks, Meyer lemons, fingerling potatoes, Belgian endive, Egyptian onions and the more mundane but essential carrots, chard, radishes and cucumbers. It’s a book you can savor chapter by chapter, visualizing a huge garden atop a Vermont hill nestled next to the chicken coop and the barn for the pigs and cattle.” —Cheryl B. Wilson, Daily New Hampshire Gazette

Praise for Our Life in Gardens

“This is a generous, thoughtful, inspiring book . . . It’s in the descriptions of the day-to-day labor of gardening that this book is so moving . . . The pleasures revealed in this beautiful book are countless.” —Dominique Browning, The New York Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374278328
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 6/11/2013
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 683,465
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd are the coauthors of Our Life in Gardens, The Year at North Hill: Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden, and Living Seasonally: The Kitchen and the Table at North Hill. They are cofounders of the garden design firm North Hill. Eck lives in Vermont; Winterrowd died in 2010.

Bobbi Angell is the illustrator of To Eat.

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Read an Excerpt

THE JOURNEY

 

 In the very early days of our life together and our gardening experience, it seems that much good came to us from the houses we rented. We left our rural life in Pepperell, Massachusetts, in 1972 to spend a glorious year in Copenhagen on Fulbright appointments to the University of Copenhagen and at the Folk University. Though the city was rich in cultural experiences—the Danish Royal Opera and Ballet, the fine old architecture, fascinating museums, historic castles, excellent restaurants—our life there offered little to us as gardeners. The apartment we succeeded in renting (with great difficulty, as we were transient) was spacious and well lit, on the third floor of a rather anonymous modern building with no land, though there was a splendid view from our living room window of the Spanish embassy, with a great flowering chestnut tree in front and a pretty formal reception garden behind. We made up for our lack, as we had before on Beacon Street in Boston, with cut flowers.

Through the incredibly mandarin but somehow startlingly efficient social system of Copenhagen (“My cousin knows someone who is related to someone in the Bureau of … I’ll make a call”), we quickly secured a quite illegitimate license to shop the wholesale flower market early in the morning, and we would return with sheaves of improbable blossoms for vases—proteras and gladioli, camellias and forced branches of quince—and often with potted flowering plants—Cinerarias, Cyclamen, forced bulbs and Kalanchoes—which gave us about as much pleasure as the flowers in vases and then were for the dustbin.

Doing without, in most human passions, can lead to a powerful urge to recover what is missing. So when we returned to Boston a year later, though we savored our renewed love for that old city, we immediately secured a plot in its famous Victory Gardens in the Fenway, bordering the aptly named Muddy River. We were urban dwellers still, but we had a scrap of ground we could cultivate on fine spring mornings and radishes we could harvest hardly a month after. We had sunlight, too, which we had not seen for all our autumn and winter in Copenhagen, and the crunch of a really fresh bean, which we had missed since leaving Pepperell two years before.

Everyone we knew in the Victory Gardens was more or less mad with desire. Our neighbors were an assorted lot—a furniture salesman, a stylish young couple in real estate, two elderly spinsters of reduced means, a leather-clad man who drove a motorcycle, an aristocratic lady of German origin—but we all shared one common passion: the need to dig in the dirt and raise something. But we left the Fenway after two years and moved to a rented house in Whitingham, Vermont, while we waited to find a house of our own.

We lived there for two more years, and it was a good house, old but not much remodeled over its many years. There were some original features, beamed ceilings, a splendid fireplace, and a large glassed-in south-facing porch, the “drying porch” of old Vermont houses where winter laundry was hung and where we built staging and had wonderful flowering plants throughout the winter. There was a pleasant sunlit 1950s Betty Crocker kitchen, with a table in the middle where for once, never before or after, we used a tablecloth.

But, as before, in Pepperell, the real treasures of the property were ample land, woods, and a fine barn in which we could keep chickens and other poultry. From the land, which was ancient, well-tended pasture when we came, we fashioned an enormous vegetable garden, really enough to feed a family of twelve. But we were hungry, not just for vegetables but also for plenitude, and for the joys of the work itself. In some ways, that was the most productive vegetable garden we ever had, in part because of the virgin nature of the soil, and in part because our little plot in the Victory Gardens had allowed our passions to leak out in a trickle but not in the flood we wanted. We grew everything, and we froze food then (we do not now). We can vividly remember the day that eighteen heads of cauliflower came ripe all at once and had to be processed and frozen the night before an early departure for a family wedding.

Most vividly, we remember the spinach we grew. Spinach can be a cranky crop, demanding cool weather, full sun, lots of moisture, perfect drainage, and deep, rich, fertile earth, with a neutral soil reading, somewhere close on either side of 6.0. We did not know much of that then. So, with beginner’s luck, we appeared to happen on just the right combination, and our spinach was huge, with leaves dark and richly crinkled, on heads that were fully a foot across. Distant memory can become gilded, but it seems to us that we picked spinach from late May all the way to July, and we never remember any that was stunted or bolted or yellow or had aphids.

That is not the first experience that has given us the sense that the heavens smile on novice gardeners who have little but borrowed knowledge and their own intense enthusiasm. We have never grown such good spinach since, and certainly not in our present garden, the one we will have until we die. Contiguous both to our poultry house and our pig house, and not far from our cow pasture, it is unusually well endowed with well-rotted compost, both autumn and spring. An extensive underground drainage system gives us some rows that can be readied just at the proverbial point at which the frost leaves the ground and the soil is workable. That is actually perhaps a month or even six weeks before the last frost, but spinach, with several other crops, will germinate in cold soil and is resistant to light frost. So the day we plant spinach, along with broad beans, onions, and leeks, is a joyful day.

If we have been diligent the autumn before, rows have already been turned up to receive the great benefits of winter, which improves their tilth. Still in spring they must be composted and turned again, and then smoothed down with the back of a rake to receive the seed. There is pleasure in the work itself, and a challenge, for one must try to make the bed perfectly. And then the seed is put in. Broad beans are easy, for their flattened, thumb-sized seeds can be as neatly arrayed as a column of marching soldiers, and then gently pressed into the soft earth, preferably eye side down, so the first questing root will go in the right direction without having to wiggle itself around.

Other crops join the spinach and broad beans in this first working of the garden in springtime. Though it will be yet two weeks before we sow the peas, now in earliest April we can plant onions and leeks, arugula and mache, and radishes. There is pleasure in anticipating the early harvest this labor will yield. But the great pleasure is the earth in our hands, connected to it again after a long winter’s absence.

 

Copyright © 2013 by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd

Illustrations and “Pie Recollections” copyright © 2013 by Bobbi Angell

Recipes by Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta copyright © 2013 by Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    Siren

    Hey!" He smilrd

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    Hello everyone

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    Posted December 25, 2013

    Sarah

    It was wonderful well except for my grandmother sleeping in it was great. What about your's?

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