Book Review: The Feast Nearby

The Feast Nearby: 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) by Robin Mather

This book was published May 24, 2011 by Ten Speed Press.  The hardcover edition has 272 pages.  I read the Kindle edition of the book.  This work is a combination of a memoir and a cookbook.

Ms. Mather is a food editor and writer who experienced a major change in her lifestyle as a result of a series of unfortunate circumstances.  The author simplified her life, retreated to a cottage in Michigan with her pets and a very limited budget.

The author states in the introduction that eating well had become a habit that she was unwilling to compromise on.  Ms. Mather also had a commitment to spend as much of her limited food dollars as possible directly with the food producers.  She decided to meet these goals by spending her $40/week food budget on locally produced foods.

This book chronicles the author’s first year following this regimen in a collection of essays, recipes and food preservation tips.  It can be read as a memoir interspersed with recipes or as a cookbook with background material about each of the recipes.

The author’s essays were well-written and interesting.  I found them to be both humorous and poignant.    I found the seasonal flow of the food particularly interesting.  Ms. Mather was eating locally produced foods while living in Michigan.  As a result, the available foods vary dramatically depending on the season.  It is also necessary to think ahead to the winter and preserve the bounty of the summer and fall.

I found the different methods of food preservation interesting.  The author also describes how the preserved foods are used.  This was very helpful.  Living in California, I have access to fresh produce year round.  However, there are some things that I think I will preserve during the next year.  Tomatoes are the first thing that comes to my mind.  I make a lot of recipes that call for a can of diced tomatoes.  I’d rather use a jar of heirloom tomatoes that I canned than a commercially canned tomato.

The memoir portion of the book is its primary feature.  The recipes are a nice bonus.  Most of the recipes in this book contain ingredients that I do not eat.  If you are looking for Paleo or low carb recipes, this is not the book for you.  If your diet allows for the consumption of grains, legumes and sugar there are a lot of interesting recipes that will help you utilize the bounty of your garden or the Farmer’s Market.

I loved this book.  It made me want to retreat to a cabin with TMOTH and the Airedale Terrierists and just live there cooking and eating seasonal foods.  I’m attracted to the Paleo lifestyle because I think the human psyche does benefit by being in synch with the cycles and the seasons of the world around us.  Unfortunately the reality of supporting oneself in the modern world makes this difficult to do.  I think one reason that I enjoyed this memoir was that it showed that with a little ingenuity and sacrifice it is possible to live a more organic life, in synch with the turning of the seasons.

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2 Responses to Book Review: The Feast Nearby

  1. Cathy Williams says:

    Barbara Kingsolver had a great book on eating locally and growing/raising your own food called Animal Vegetable Miracle, it came out a few years back. It was a great read. They actually set a mile radius for how far away from their home their food could be grown or raised. I’d offer to loan it to you but I loaned it to another friend and never got it back.

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