Thursday, November 20, 2014

Over the Counter #239

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Foodie memoirs this week...

First up is The Sugar Season: A Year in the Life of Maple Syrup, and One Family's Quest for the Sweetest Harvest by Douglas Whynott.

From the publisher, Da Capo Press:
"A year in the life of one New England family as they work to preserve an ancient, lucrative, and threatened agricultural art--the sweetest harvest, maple syrup...

At a sugarhouse owned by maple syrup entrepreneur Bruce Bascom, 80,000 gallons of sap are processed daily during winter's end. In The Sugar Season, Douglas Whynott follows Bascom through one tumultuous season, taking us deep into the sugarbush, where sunlight and sap are intimately related and the sound of the taps gives the woods a rhythm and a ring. Along the way, he reveals the inner workings of the multimillion-dollar maple sugar industry. Make no mistake, it's big business--complete with a Maple Hall of Fame, a black market, a major syrup heist monitored by Homeland Security, a Canadian organization called The Federation, and a Global Strategic Reserve that's comparable to OPEC (fitting, since a barrel of maple syrup is worth more than a barrel of oil).

Whynott brings us to sugarhouses, were we learn the myriad subtle flavors of syrup and how it's assigned a grade. He examines the unusual biology of the maple tree that makes syrup possible and explores the maples'--and the industry's--chances for survival, highlighting a hot-button issue: how global warming is threatening our food supply. Experts predict that, by the end of this century, maple syrup production in the United States may suffer a drastic decline.

As buckets and wooden spouts give way to vacuum pumps and tubing, we see that even the best technology can't overcome warm nights in the middle of a season--and that only determined men like Bascom can continue to make a sweet like off of rugged land."
Next up is Harvest: Field Notes From a Far-Flung Pursuit of Real Food by Max Watman.
From the publisher, WW Norton and Co.:
"Max Watman’s compulsively readable memoir of his dogged quest to craft meals from scratch.After an epiphany caused by a harrowing bite into a pink-slime burger, Max Watman resolves to hunt, fish, bake, butcher, preserve, and pickle. He buys a thousand-pound-steer—whom he names Bubbles—raises chickens, gardens, and works to transform his small-town home into a gastronomic paradise. In this compulsively readable memoir, Watman records his experiments and adventures as he tries to live closer to the land and the source of his food.  A lively raconteur, Watman draws upon his youth in rural Virginia with foodie parents—locavores before that word existed—his time cooking in restaurants, and his love of the kitchen.

Amid trial and experiment, there is bound to be heartbreak. Despite a class in cheese making from a local expert, his carefully crafted Camembert resembles a chalky hockey puck. Much worse, his beloved hens—"the girls," as he calls them—are methodically attacked by a varmint, and he falls into desperate measures to defend them. Finally, he loses track of where exactly Bubbles the steer is.
Watman perseveres, and his story culminates in moments of redemption: a spectacular prairie sunset in North Dakota; watching 10,000 pheasants fly overhead; eating fritters of foraged periwinkles and seawater risotto; beachside with his son; a tub of homemade kimchi that snaps and crunches with fresh, lively flavor well after the last harvest.

With infectious enthusiasm, Watman brings the reader to the furthest corners of culinary exploration. He learns that the value of living from scratch is in the trying. With a blend of down-home spirit and writing panache, he serves up a delectable taste of farm life—minus the farm."

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

No comments: