The-One Block Feast: An Adventure In Food From Yard To Table, by Margo True
This book was a somewhat alienating read. There is certainly a market for a book like this, but I’m not it. That isn’t to say that this book is useless–there are certainly some very useful parts of the book. The suggestions for plants to grow in seasonal garden rotations are occasionally even inspired, and some of the recipes look quite tasty even if most of them are more than a bit hipster in nature. The approach of the book as a whole, though, comes from the sort of privileged and leftist locovores who want to eat what they want while not purchasing products from stores or contributing to global and industrial logistics supply chains. In looking at this book and the experience of the writer and the team of gardeners, this is the approach to feeding oneself that can only come from someone who already has a fair amount of money to work with and a fair amount of time on one’s hands and presumably quite a few people working together (since a large team worked on this farm to take care of all of the various aspects of the adventure). And if you’re a single person who finds the author’s approach more than a bit too precious, this is not the sort of book that hits the right chords.
This book is a complex one of more than 250 pages and it is really four parts that each have three different elements to them. The book begins with an introduction that discusses the book’s planting plan and timeline for both warm-season and cool-season as well as some gardening guidelines. After that the author discusses the four seasons: Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. Each of the sections includes a discussion of the seasonal feast that offers a humorous tale of the experiences of the team in dealing with various concerns. There is then a look at the garden plan in each season, projects that match the season, as well as recipes and preserves. The projects include raising honeybees, making cheese and beer, raising chickens, making wine, vinegar, and olive oil, growing mushrooms, taking care of dairy cattle, and so on. The author expressed a difficulty that one has in growing tea on the West coast, which is a problem that deserves to be solved. The recipes included skillet-roasted endamame, plenty of zucchini dishes (one suspects that the author found herself burdened with a lot of zucchini to get rid of, a common fate of gardeners), herb vegetable broth, and many others. Preserves include dried herbs, strawberry oven jam. After the four seasons are discussed the author provides an epilogue, gives acknowledgements, introduces the team of people who worked on the garden throughout the year, as well as providing a regional planting and harvesting timeline for one’s own gardens as well as an index.
This book is the sort of adventure you have when you can ensure that you make a book out of it. It is hard for me to imagine a group of people who would do something like this, and those who would would probably do it differently. It is worthwhile, I suppose to see how the other 3% lives, to ponder how it is that those who have the means to support their ideals about wanting to return to a simpler life but with the means to support considerably more privilege in distinguishing themselves from peasants by virtue of more elitist choices of plants and care than one would find in subsistence agriculture. Yet there are certainly a great many people who have enough property to do something like what these authors suggest, if they have a lot of people to help them out with taking care of the chickens or milking the cows or pressing the olives into oil or growing the wheat or rotating the crops after harvesting or taking care of the bees. A lot of man-hours went into this one block, and the author makes it clear that if one wants to be a locovore it takes if not a village at least a few households working together. That’s not such a bad model, if you can do it.