Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto


by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide


JUST ADD WATER by Kristin LeMay

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
by Novella Carpenter
Penguin, May 2010
Paperback 288 pp., ISBN: 978-0143117285

On a windowsill seven stories above Broadway in Manhattan, I’ve managed to keep three potted dahlias alive for a month. New leaves emerge and stretch toward the bus exhaust; a tight-wrapped bud becomes, despite the cab horns and the sirens, a blossom. The plants are growing (the yellow-flowered one faster than red- or orange-), and I’m beside myself about it. For the first time in my life, I have a garden.

Flush with my own success, I picked up Farm City, Novella Carpenter’s memoir of urban farming. I felt practically her equal: She grows things, I grow things. We both salivate over “food porn” seed catalogs. Maybe I could pick up a tip or two?

A few pages in, I realized that Carpenter is a whole different species of urban cultivator than most people will ever be, including me. Carpenter grows no mere garden; she raises a true farm on an abandoned lot in what she calls the “ghetto” of Oakland. Open to the Table of Contents, and you’ll catch a preview of her story of escalation: Part 1, “Turkey,” becomes Part II, “Rabbit,” leads to Part III, “Pig.” Along the way, her farm additionally hosts two colonies of honeybees, several geese, too many chickens, and a cast of urban misfits whom her farm also helps to grow.

If you’re anything like me, the pleasure of following Carpenter’s journey derives from a savory mix of three parts voyeurism, one part projection, one part caution. How fun it is to watch someone else build a brooder, raise and kill and cook her own varied livestock, and struggle to subsist for a whole month solely on her farm’s yield. This is voyeuristic pleasure: You peer into her lot and watch the collision of the rustic (buzzing bees, sprouting watermelon, scratching chickens) and the urban (homeless men and street gangs alternately helping and harming her project). While you watch her produce thrive in the “just add water gardening” milieu of California, you’ll wonder what you could grow if you lived in an agriculturally favorable climate. I would grow avocados (and there’s the pleasure of projection).

But even as you muse yourself into an imaginary patch of tomatoes and peas, lemons and peaches, leave room for some caution: Carpenter’s farm is anything but idyllic. In order to reap her bounty, Carpenter must battle slugs, wild dogs and possums, junkies who steal her produce, neighbors with qualms about the stench of her pigs, and a real estate developer who threatens her squatter’s claim to the land. Carpenter is an appealing companion, as bewildered as the reader at her own madcap schemes, and so the reader struggles along with her, wishing her and her farm well.

I read Farm City in a single day—a sweltering summer day in Manhattan—as the jackhammers tore up the street and my dahlias wilted on the windowsill. And although I mentally escaped with Carpenter to a farm no more bucolic than the scene outside my window, I came away invigorated by her example of the possibilities for growth, even in the most unlikely of settings. A few days later, I added to my windowsill plot two edible seedlings: one basil and one oregano. Thanks to Carpenter, I now wonder what might be next.

June 26, 2010