Monday, June 1, 2015

April/May Round-Up: The Feast Nearby

Welcome all to the April/May round of Cook the Books.

This month’s Cook the Book round featured Robin Mather’s The Feast Nearby.   In this book of essays, Mather describes “How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on forty dollars a week).”

I found Mather to be plain spoken and although passionate about her lifestyle, she is not preachy or judgmental.  She is practical.   I learned a great deal from her such as trying to purchase cheese trims from a local cheese monger, drying cherries, and making mead.   I love that she also likes to have a meal of “nibbles” in the summer months.   And, I applaud that she not only advocates for local farmers, but also for local purveyors and businesses like grocers, millers, and meat packers.
I have a new idol in Mather so I appreciate you, the CTB membership, for allowing me to host this round.
Now, let's get to the round-up.
I have to feature Wendy, from A Day in the Life on the Farm, first.   Wendy posted her recipe and review way back in March.   
Wendy loved Robin and loved the book because it is not only  "about eating and shopping locally, which is near and dear to my heart and a lifestyle I try hard to emulate, but the author lived on only $40 per week for food right here in my home State of Michigan."  Wendy wondered why she had not heard of the book before CTB.

Since it was still 40 degrees in Michigan at the time of her posting, she chose to make Mather's Navy Bean Soup.
Wendy was the early bird this round so she deserves to go first.   The rest of the round-up is in no particular order.

Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats, baked up some delicious looking  oatmeal cookies .   She was taken by the "homey pleasures" in The Feast Nearby and Cathy reminisced about her own challenges of living on $20 a week after she bought her first home in the 80s.   She baked her mother's "simple, homey cookies.   The recipe is similar to the one in the book for oatmeal, maple syrup drop cookies.  It never fails to please." 

I agree.  Who can't pass up a warm oatmeal cookie, especially with those memories behind it?

Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures went with a warming soup like Wendy; however, Amy was less than enamored by the book.  Amy first attempt for CTB was a salt rise bread that failed to cooperate.  Being resourceful, she searched her freezer to find lots of veggies from the previous summer's farmers markets.  She created a delicious soup that was "sort of hybrid between Bacon Corn Chowder and Chicken Tortilla Soup."   

Sorry you didn't enjoy the book. Amy.  At least you were able to create a delicious new soup.  

Simona of briciole and a fellow CTB co-host created some delicious and delicate looking strawberry scones.  Simona was inspired by the seasons:  "The narrative starts in the spring (primavera), which since childhood for me is associated with strawberries. Strawberry season in California starts earlier and last longer than in Italy, but I don't think I will ever get used to it, which is good, because it means every year, the thrill of tasting the first strawberry carries the same intense sweetness as when I was a child."

I love that Simona oven-roasted the fragole.

Claudia writes at Honey from the Rock.   She "especially enjoyed the moments with Pippin, Robins's very clever parrot, having no idea that some varieties of parrot were so intelligent.  He understands and answers her.  Amazing."   As far as the recipes in the book go, the Jambalaya was calling her name.

She also points out the difference in growing climates between Mather's Michigan and her own home of Hawaii:  "We have a year-round growing season here in Hawaii, though preserving what we grow is still an excellent thing.  Using fruit that is abundant beyond what can be eaten out of hand, to prevent waste and save money.  Just think of all the wine I don't have to buy, because I grow the fruit and make it."   

I love a frugal wine maker!  (Claudia, do you ship overseas?)

Rachel, another CTB co-host, writes at The Crispy Cook.   She concluded that The Feast Nearby was "stuffed with good information on raising chickens, bartering (she swapped homegrown vegetables from her neighbor for a snug, handknit hat), grocery shopping locally, preserving and canning, roasting and grinding your own coffee. I learned a lot and enjoyed her down-to-earth writing and recipes. There's a lot of richness in living and eating cheaply, seasonally and well."  

She decided to experiment with baking with dried cherries and tackling Mather's Peppery Cherry Spoon Bread.   Rachel does suggest that next time she will adapt the recipe a bit and simply make "a cheesy, dried cherry-studded polenta" instead. 

I was glad to see Deb (the third co-host) from Kahakai Kitchen post her "Ethel Dip.".  (Deb, good to see you posting again.)  This dip was named after a family friend of Mather's and promised to be a crowd-pleaser. 

Deb realized that she already owned and read the book a couple of years ago but set about rereading it for CTB.   As she revisited the book, she found that "Mather's words and the food she cooks are simple, homey and great to curl up with at night before bed. It made me want to get a tiny cabin complete with a poodle, a smart African Grey parrot, and maybe a kitten, and try to live on $40 a week too. Since that's tempting but not realistic, Mather's book is the next best thing."

Last but not least is Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla.   A few of you have mentioned the long subtitled to the book (and one of our members refused to read it because of it). Camilla was also "completely put off by the subtitle: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week)"  and she "envisioned a self-absorbed memoir that was more focused on grocery receipts than the actual food."   Camilla was pleased to be wrong by her first impression.

You can't always judge a book by it's title!  :)

Camilla presented Mujadara, a recipe that was new to her.   Looks delicious, Camilla.

Finally (and I almost forgot to highlight my own recipe here), I also went into unfamiliar territory.  I had never cooked with lamb before and couldn't resist Mather's Marinated Grilled Lamb with lots of herbs, garlic and red wine.

We enjoyed this for our Easter dinner at Eliot's Eats.

Thanks to all who read The Feast Nearby and participated this round.   I hope we all found some tidbit of wisdom (or a new recipe) from Mather.   Since the books publication, Mather has vacated the cold climate of Michigan and currently resides near Topeka where she writes for Mother Earth News.   

Please join Simona for the next round of Cook the Books.  She has selected The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch.  You still have plenty of time to get your hands on a copy.  Posts will be due at the end of July.  Please look for an announcement post here soon.  (Simona, so far I am really enjoying the characters in The Wedding Bees.)


Alicia Foodycat said...

I'm glad so many people enjoyed it! But yes, I stick to my policy of not reading books with stupidly long winded titles (the United States of Arugula was the breaking point for me).

Rachel said...

Really enjoyed this book. And it got me to try a new favored ingredient: dried cherries!

Simona Carini said...

What a banquet! Thank you Debra for hosting and for the lovely roundup. Now on to reading the posts.

Hope you'll join this round, Alicia.