Monday, March 15, 2010

Edible Phoenix, Coming Home To Eat, and one Hungry Monkey

I went to visit my daughter last week in Phoenix and saw these lemons dangling from a tree in a backyard.

I lived in New Mexico when I was young and I never saw citrus like the big lemons and oranges in backyards in Phoenix. Shortly before I'd arrived, rain had refreshed the landscape and washes were filled with water. Green covered distant hills making this normally harsh land seem refreshing.

Later, at a trendy clothing store in Scottsdale, I picked up a copy of Edible Phoenix. Here are a few of the spring produce selections listed for Phoenix:

  • asparagus
  • beets
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • fava beans
  • grapefruit
  • chard
  • summer squash
  • turnips
Asparagus in the Southwest? I'd love to taste some. I visited a farmers' market in Phoenix a few years ago and I never saw this diverse selection of vegetables, but I brought home grapefruit from the market.

I don't really remember much about the Southwest when I was young, except for pueblos, dusty dry landscapes, big spiders and rattlesnakes. But when I read Coming Home to Eat (2002), by Gary Nabhan memories of buttery tasting pinon nuts came back to me.

Before Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle (2007) and Alisa Smith and J.B. Macknnon's Plenty (2007) and the 100 mile Diet, Gary Nabhan kicked off the local food movement and ate food within 250 miles of his home in the Southwest for one year. Coming Home to Eat was one of the first books linking global politics and local food.

"There are moments in this life that I recall not with visual snapshots but as tastes and fragrances. They make sense to me, to who I am, in ways that I suppose are profoundly rooted."

This opening sentence brought back the dry scent of sagebrush and almost decadent taste of pinon nuts pried from the cones of pine trees. I remember being shocked that something that tasted so good came from a pine tree.

I loved visiting family, but I missed our Northwest local treasures and my Kitchen Assistant who loves all food, especially produce from the market.

On the flight home I finished Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Mathew Amster-Burton. Another book that was hard to put down, I was smiling after the first few sentences of this book. I loved Mathew's daughter Iris. You would too. Check out his first sentences:

"My daughter's first meal was supposed to be, oh let's say local organic carrots pureed with homemade chicken broth in a hand-cranked food mill. That's what everybody wants for their kid, right? I swear I was totally planning on a feast of that nature when fate intervened and a doughnut fell on her head."

I rooted for Mathew's daughter Iris all the way, but the part I liked the best was when Mathew took up gardening to encourage Iris to eat green vegetables. He checked Gardening for Dummies out of the library and wrote: "It was the scariest book I've ever read." Deciding what and where to plant, what containers to use and how to deal with pests--perfect produce from good farmers makes growing things look so easy. Hungry Monkey was as charming as it's title. The book was a great end to a warm, sunny trip filled with lots of fresh salads.

My own "hungry monkey" is sad the only photo shoot for this past weekend is with a book.

2 comments: said...

Great blog! I love your book reviews and your 'tips' posts! Thanks for sharing! Sounds like a great cookbook coming out soon! I too, am a huge fan of the Northwest, and no doubt will be there in a year or two to live....

ddzeller said...

Wow! I'd love to get together when you do get here. I stumbled on your blog from another blog and loved it immediately. Glad we connected.