I’ve been drawn to read books about farming, gardening, and living more simply. Right now, I’m craving books with souls and stories over the more dry ‘how-to’s’. This isn’t a very easy genre to search, if you’ve never been inclined to do so, but it is like finding a buried jewel when you do it right.
I recently reread (and briefly blogged about) the book The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball. During reading it again, I found myself hunting her down, trying to figure out what they are up to now and if there were any more plans for another book (I’m excited to say it appears that there are). I found Kristin’s website which also hosts her blog, but was saddened that the blog hadn’t been updated in months. I then found and followed Essex Farm on Facebook and Instagram and have been thrilled with every recent update they’ve made. It’s a strange sensation to miss a place you’ve never been and to crave updates on things (the plants, animals, and people) you’ve never even seen. But I’m indulging my fascination with their lives and lifestyles and they don’t seen to mind, or even notice.
I tried to read The Unsettlers: In Search of the Good Life in Today’s America by Mark Sundeen, and while the title and description seemed to be exactly what I was looking for, the book left much to be desired for me. As far as I got in the book, it seemed to be more about fighting the ‘machine’ and the overall tone wasn’t as hopeful as I’d gleaned from the name. Last year I read a ton of books and early on I had to give myself permission to quit a book that made me dread picking it up, in the spirit of reading more often, and this one had to go back to the library, sadly unfinished.
My next library mini-haul included Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. I dove into both, which gave me a strange sensation that this authors tone changes from sincere and frequently poetic to snarky real-talk like the switch of a light… and I realized maybe I should stick to just one book at a time, even if one of them is more of a cookbook than memoir.
I nearly gave up on Animal, Vegetable, Miracle around page 50 when I started feeling like it was more of a history lesson in the why’s of being a “locavore” and less about the actual story of their year of eating only locally. Thankfully, I stuck with it and Barbara weaved in much more of their lives with the ‘why’s’ and a fuller image of their purpose and experience began to come forward. I’m still in the middle of this one, but I can tell you already, it’s worth the read! Lots of great recipes throughout as well.
Make the Bread, Buy the Butter is the story of a woman discovering what things we should make from scratch and what things (taking into consideration higher prices or mere sanity) we really should just buy. There are little stories leading into most of the recipes about what lead her to try that particular task, her experience, and her conclusions and those are all very cute. Sadly, I excitedly tried the first bread recipe (Everyday Bread, page 9), and while the recipe came together very easily and it was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside while warm, as soon as I let it cool per the instructions to slice the rest of it… it was very dense and bland… and I ended up chucking it over the fence to the critters. This first flub has made me a little wary of the rest of the recipes… though overall the book is still interesting and has a lot of great tips (like buying your instant yeast online from the King Arthur website and saving a bundle)! So, I’ll experiment a bit more before returning it to the library, but I’m not sure whether or not this will ultimately be a purchase for me.
Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith.
What are you reading? Any particular theme emerging from your last several picks?