Thursday, March 7, 2013

This Organic Life by Joan Dye Gussow

This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban HomesteaderThis Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader by Joan Dye Gussow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is part memoir, part essay collection with the central topic of growing food and local-based agriculture. It was published in 2001, so written likely in the late 1990’s so it was written as the local food movement was beginning to pick up steam (at least I think so). The initial chapters of the book follow Joan and her husband Alan as they build the house in Piermont, NY where they plan to live the last part of their life. The latter part of the book is a little less cohesive but loosely details her first few years living and gardening in her new space and it also becomes more treatise on the importance of farmers and of eating locally.

Gussow has an engaging writing style and this is mostly a personal story – of what growing her own food means to her. She does deal with some of the larger issues in America’s agricultural system but she primarily touches on this through stories and slips it in here or there without getting too pedantic or instructional. She emphasizes again and again how eating locally/growing one’s own food not only makes ecological sense but is just more delicious and I realized that over the past few years, as I’ve grown some of my own food, I’ve embraced this fact unconsciously. I’ve never been a big fan of tomatoes until the past few years. I thought it was just my tastes changing but it has coincided very closely with me growing my own tomatoes and I really think I’ve started liking them because I now know what a real tomato tastes like! She emphasizes the superiority of this straight-from-the-garden produce with a smattering of really delicious looking recipes.

In the end this book is kind of all over the place and sometimes Gussow can get a little holier than thou. Despite this the book makes a strong point and makes it in a pretty enjoyable manner.

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