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`Food to Live By' by Earthbound Farm co-founder, Myra Goodman and culinary `accomplices' Linda Holland and Pamela McKinstry announces itself as a cookbook for organic ingredients, and yet except for an emphasis on cooking with fruit, this is largely a brightly illustrated and joyfully assembled general purpose cookbook, I'm certain that the publisher, Workman, has a lot to do with the sidebar intensive style and better than average illustrations and snaps, but I also suspect much is owed to the great pleasure the author had in realizing this book.
The fact that the book does not quite fill its billing as a `healthy foods' book tempted me to give it only four stars. Two facts changed my mind. First, the hefty (402 pages) book lists for a scant $21.95 US. Second, the last Chapter 10 on `Basics' has excellent advice on making stocks. It may not be on the great reflective level of Deborah Madison or as finicky as the Culinary Institute of America textbook, but for a budget priced book, it is very good indeed.
I would still have demoted it to four stars if the general level of recipes was weak, but they are not. All of the traditional stuff is entirely up to snuff. For example, the pastry crust recipe hits all the right notes. The only caveat is that this and other recipes call for whole-wheat pastry flour, which I have not seen in my local megamart (Wegmans). On the other hand, I have seen lots and lots of `Earthbound Farm Organic' products in my very same Wegmans and the story of how Drew and Myra Goodman established their little business that could almost sounds too good to be true.
This story takes up the first 24 pages (the Roman numeraled ones in the introduction) of the book (which means that 402 pages are all recipes, no fluff). This is primarily a tale of being at the right place at the right time with the right idea. The couple leased a 2½-acre farm in Carmel Valley, California and started by raising and selling raspberries while they accumulated moneys to continue their educations. One thing lead to another, falling into great good luck when they hit upon the notion of bagged salad greens just at the time that the country was becoming a lot more interested in more diverse vegetables and in organic produce, all with the same convenience of other supermarket fare. The result is that our heroes now own and run the largest producer of organic vegetables in the country, and probably in the world.
While the book starts with raspberry recipes and continues with soup and salad recipes, great destinations for their organic produce, the chapters are really almost exactly what you would find in a conventional cookbook. As the author points out, eating organic is certainly NOT the same as being a vegetarian (however, I suspect it is much easier to find organic fruits and vegetables than it is to find organic milk, eggs, meats, and poultry, let alone `organic' fish). This brings me to one of the very few complaints about this book. There is no appendix of sources for some the things not sold by Earthbound Farm. This includes the whole-wheat pastry flour and Grade A dark maple syrup. Fortunately, there are very few such `hard to find' ingredients.
The very first thing that told me this was a book with which to be reckoned was the recipe for carrot soup. While I'm sure I have a recipe for this somewhere among my dozen soup cookbooks, this is the first time this has caught my attention, and I plan to make it at the first opportunity. Talk about liquid gold!
One thing this book brings to mind is a latter day `Whole Earth Catalogue' lifestyle; however, there is very little hint of the hippie ethos and lifestyle here. We are, after all, talking about the owners of a multi-million dollar business. Thus, there are not many bread baking recipes or detailed canning or pickling recipes, but there is a bit of all these things, including ice cream making and homemade granola.
While Workman publishing sometimes strikes me as something of a `cookbook factory' publisher like Chronicle Books, both publishers seem to maintain a high standard, and this book fits a higher standard than most. Every so many pages, we run across little presents such as `A Field Guide to Great-Tasting Tomatoes'. These are informative and great eye candy. My only caveat is that you don't consider them `complete' guides. They do, however, spice up this amazingly low-priced book.
The value of this cookbook to you is directly in proportional to you inclination to collect cookbooks, divided by how many cookbooks you have now. If you already have 500 cookbooks, this one won't add a whole lot beyond the uplifting story of how the family Goodman got rich raising lettuce. It does not have a strong `health food' emphasis (just look at the mac and cheese recipe') and aside from the very good stock making section, there are not a lot of cooking insights, but that doesn't mean it isn't a danged good cookbook. So, if you like vegetables and soups and a really nice collection of good recipes, this book will brighten your day.