The Barnes & Noble Review
After years of nibbling packaged doodads, Gary Paul Nabhan had an epiphany: He wanted to eat at home. “The food we put into our mouths today travels an average of one thousand three hundred miles,” he groans. “I realized how deeply, how desperately, most Americans needed to go home: to hunt and to hoe, to saw and to sickle, to smoke and to cure, to sup, to imbibe and to dine on what was divinely local.” In this unusual memoir of an environmental/gastronomical experiment, Nabhan chronicles his attempt to eat only fresh, local foods for a full year. It’s an enlightening journey: From purging Cranberry Almond Crunch from the cupboards to stir-frying Arizonan caterpillars, Nabhan shows us how to be in and of our homelands.
Nabhan, an environmental activist with a MacArthur Award and a Lannan Literary Fellowship under his belt, began his quest by ridding himself of all things canned, boxed, processed, or packed. He next studied what foods could be harvested within a 250-mile radius of his own house. His friends, understandably, were curious. “My family members, friends and neighbors...ask me over and over again to explain the rules,” he admits shyly. But instead of making up a quickie list of dos and don’ts, Nabhan simply followed his gut. “The taste of homemade food was not simply the soup your parents made,” he explains. “It was an oral pleasure that rose from the flavors, the minerals, the sourness or sweetness of the very ground we walk upon.” Nabhan would experiment with all the foods of his native soil, guided only by his desire for home.
Nabhan’s free-ranging investigation takes him into the oldest traditions of American cooking: wild game preparations, camote de los medanos (an underground plant called “sandfood”), saguaro fruit, mesquite tortillas, sphinx moth caterpillars, and a roadside weed called quelites de las aguas. “Their flavors were so fresh,” Nabhan enthuses. “Within minutes of devouring them, I felt more green, as if I were on some folic acid high.” But at times, of course, Nabhan’s efforts lead him into confusion. In an attempt to kill chickens, Nabhan’s insistence on personal connection with food leads only to chaos: “You simply cannot hold a knife, two feet and two wings at the same time without a lot of practice,” he admits. “After the first ten seconds of wing-beating spasms, I was covered with blood.” Eating responsibly turns out to be more painful -- and more rewarding -- than even Nabhan had envisioned.
Nabhan’s story is told slowly, with plenty of details about the esoteric foods he discovers. And while caterpillars and road greens may not please everyone, this intense inquiry surely will.
Amazing and eloquent....Nabhan makes us understand how finding and eating local foods connects us deeply and sensually.
Nabhan is a very good writer, capable of transforming his adventures into a colorful and engrossing story that will appeal even to readers who might not enjoy a freshly prepared dish of locally obtained caterpillars.
Los Angeles Times
[E]loquent, richly evocative... fascinating, enlightening and moving.
Los Angeles Times
[A] profound and engaging book, a passionate call to us to re-think our food industry.
A practical primer on how to 'eat locally, think globally'and enjoy it morewherever you are.
Nabhan is a brilliant scientist and remarkably successful social activist....His stories are often funny and always invaluable.
Nabhan brings the rare combination of the sensual and the intellectual to his writing about food....a soul food treatise for our time.
He offers an elegant, inspired and eloquently detailed account of becoming a 'direct participant' in the food that sustains him.
[Nabhan] writes with a passion for those of us who still see and trust the wild in our land.
In a story entitled "Guy de Maupassant," Babel wrote: "When a phrase is born, it is both good and bad at the same time. The secret of its success rests in a crux that is barely discernible. One's fingertips must grasp the key, gently warming it. And then the key must be turned once, not twice." Though he is discussing translation here, Babel might be describing his own approach to prose. The Russian writer was a prodigy, becoming famous upon the publication of his story collection The Red Cavalry, a landmark in modernism written when he was in his 20s. This new translation of his complete work, making available in English short stories that have been scattered in different collections, will be an essential book for anyone who cares about the art of the story. It gathers together not only the writer's fiction but his journalism and his plays; Cynthia Ozick contributes an introduction and editor Nathalie Babel, Babel's daughter, writes a preface. Those who have read Babel will want to turn first to the stories written between 1925 and 1938, which have been the hardest to find. They include such masterpieces as "Story of My Dovecote" and "My First Fee," the latter a typical combination of imagery ? la Chagall and brutally honest observations of the wounds caused by war and revolution. Babel's career, tragically, was cut short by Stalin, who had him arrested, tortured and shot in 1940. In the work he left behind, he is witness to the electric polarity between the 20th century's utopianism and its startling capacity for atrocity. Few writers possess Babel's level of genius and temerity, and this first complete collection should acquaint more readers with his unjustly neglected work. (Nov.)Forecast: This will be the Babel book for years to come, and should spark debate about Babel's place in the canon. If it attracts the same kind of interest as Richard Howard's 1998 retranslation of The Charterhouse of Parma, popular sales might take off; in any case, it will be a backlist fixture. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
One of the great Russian writers of the 20th century, Babel (1894-1941) was arrested in 1939 and later executed by Stalin's regime. In 1954, his work was largely republished, but much of his correspondence, drafts, and manuscripts was confiscated when he was arrested and has never resurfaced. Now, for the first time, all of Babel's surviving work has been assembled into one volume. Readers new to Babel will discover his "Red Cavalry" stories, plays, diaries, screenplays, and short stories. In addition to an introduction by Cynthia Ozick, the book is graced with an excellent preface and afterword by Babel's daughter, who also edited the volume. She provides recently uncovered information about her father's arrest and execution as well as personal remembrances. With the publication of this volume of Babel's work, it is hoped that a full-scale biography will follow. Essential for literature collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/01.] Ron Ratliff, Kansas State Univ., Manhattan Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
“Eloquent, richly evocative . . . a fascinating, enlightening, and moving account.”
“A tale certain to inspire gardeners, cooks, and others eager to replace convenience with flavor.”