I did it. I bought and read another book about owning chickens. Andy better watch out because a chicken coop is totally going up in the backyard, sooner or later.
I think Amazon recommended The Feat Nearby to me a while back; probably late last summer when I was busy searching It's the memoir of an out of work food editor (and as a pretty loyal reader of Fine Cooking and Cooking Light, I'm all over that) who moves to her small cabin in southwest Michigan to reorganize her life. With her poodle and parrot as her companions, she lives frugally, but focused on eating locally.
While Mather's essays, which follow a full year of life in
her 650 square ft. cabin (where the nearest stoplight is *gasp!* eight
miles away. . . cynical Ada feels the need to point out that she lives
53-ish miles from the nearest stoplight) are written in lovely prose,
the essays are just that: essays. This is no how-to book, this is a
chance to wax poetic on chickens, raspberry jam, and the single life.
One thing I was disappointed by was the lack of concrete detail about how exactly she got by on a $40 a week food budget. And frankly, $40 a week for food . . . for one person? As someone who capped her weekly food budget at $30 immediately after college, I'm just not that impressed. Despite what we're lead to believe, it is not that hard to both eat cheaply and well, just buy lots of dried goods - lentils, rice, pasta and peanut butter are your friend - and make sure you eat everything (i.e. produce) before it goes bad. Now, if Mather was living on $40 a week, full stop, then we'd truly have a "hold the presses" sort of thing going on. Hrumph!
What was I saying?
Right, details. . .
While, I fully enjoyed the book for what it was, with a tagline like "how I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally," I wanted some details. I didn't just want to hear in passing that you set up some strawberry preserves for fresh produce swapping system with your neighbor.
She talks a lot about carefully planning her yearly food supply (which included canning 50 pints of diced tomatoes!), but never gives many specifics. Call me crazy, but I want to see an appendix with information about exact amounts you canned, dehydrated, froze, etc. to get yourself through 12 months.
At the end of the essay she includes a set of recipes related to the essay's topics. We've tried out a couple of the recipes and they are yummy. I made the lamb and apricot tagine to use up the leg of lamb I picked up on sale after Easter last year and just the other night I followed her directions for stuffing a squash. They're both winners and they make me anxious to try out her other recipes. That said, her directions for yogurt proved disappointing, but then I'm just not sure you're supposed to make yogurt when it's -3F outside. So I'm stalking up that failure to me and not her.
If you're looking for a homey, comforting read (the woman knits, how can you not love her?) for long winter evenings, this is a great choice . . . especially if you have a penchant for reading cooking magazines anyway.
Full disclosure: I did not pay for this book because my fabulous brother gave me a B&N gift certificate for Christmas. (Score!) The opinions expressed in this review are my own and I received no compensation for this review.
P.S. Happy Groundhog's Day! 6 more weeks of winter where you are? We *always* have six more weeks of winter after February 2, so this day's a total cop-out in northern Minnesota.