I had the pleasure of meeting Deborah Madison at a book signing held at Boggy Creek Farm a few weeks ago. The signing was for her new book Seasonal Fruit Desserts from Orchard, Farm, and Market which I’m looking forward to using from one season to the next. For the last year, I’ve been enjoying cooking from her book Local Flavors, and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is a classic of hers I reference often. Deborah was a student for eighteen years at the San Francisco Zen Center where she was head cook, guest cook, and private cook at different times. She also cooked at Chez Panisse before opening Greens restaurant which was a leader in offering farm-driven menus. Her many award-winning books inspire a way of eating that connects us to our food sources. Deborah is on the board of the Seed Savers Exchange, has been involved with Slow Food for over ten years, is the co-director of the Monte del Sol Edible Kitchen Garden in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and you can find her on Culinate. I asked Deborah, what are you reading?
The book I am reading is called Oak, the Frame of Civilization, by William Bryant Logan, who wrote one of my favorite books, Dirt, the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth.
"Oak" is a small but pretty, pithy book that in fact does frame civilization in terms of the habitat of the oak tree and the fact that it didn't adapt to a specialized niche.
To me both of these books are completely about food. Soil is essential, and it helps to understand it. "Oak" is about culture, but much of the oak culture is in fact about food, about gathering acorns, claiming trees and branches, harvesting, sharing, processing, cooking. But it's bigger than acorns. And food is bigger than recipes; it's about how we arrange our lives with others, and with nature, too.
Thank you for participating, Deborah! Check back to see who answers the question next time and what other books are recommended.
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Tara Austen Weaver