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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)
 
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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) [Format Kindle]

Robin Mather

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Extrait

1

On Settling In And Making Maple
 
The snow melted in patches, making the dirt road muddy and slippery. The curvy road’s steep hills made me glad for my old Subaru’s all-wheel drive. Where the snow was not melted, it was crusted and rotten. The shadows lay long as the daylight dwindled.
 
We were, all three of us, tired. On a good day, it’s a three-and-a-half hour drive from Chicago, but this wasn’t a good day. Traffic was unusually heavy, and I was battered emotionally, devastated by the pain of losing a marriage and a career within the span of a week. As I eased the car down the lakeward-sloping drive to park close to the cottage, Boon sat up alertly in the passenger seat. He remembered the scents of this place and his wagging pompom tail told me he associated it with pleasure. In the back seat, Pippin, in his carrier, gave a long, low whistle--a sound that he makes only when pleased. The dog, the parrot, and I had arrived.
 
The cottage was chilly. It stood unoccupied over the winter, although we kept the furnace running at its lowest setting to keep the pipes from freezing. Bumping the thermostat up to sixty-five degrees, I heard the ancient oil-fired furnace kick in reassuringly. Because the cottage is so small--just 650 square feet, encompassing an L-shaped living room, a good-sized kitchen, a modest bedroom, and bathroom--I knew it would be warm in short order.
 
Boon, big even for a standard poodle, sniffed around for a few minutes. Finally, he settled under the kitchen table. After putting the kettle on to boil for a mug of dripped coffee, I uncovered Pippin’s carrier and invited him to step onto my hand. He stretched first the wing and leg on one side, then the other; a quick shake of his ruffled feathers and the flippant wag of his crimson tail signaled his contentment. “Pip,” I said, “there’s a whole lot of stuff in the car that needs unloading, but it can wait for a while.” He bobbed his head in the quick up-and-down that told me this was good news to him. While we waited for the kettle to whistle, Pip and I crooned to each other for a bit. Although African Greys are known as standoffish parrots, Pippin is very cuddly and sweet-tempered.
 
The hot coffee, sweet and milky, provided instant comfort. I leaned back against the counter, trying to prioritize. Dinner first, I thought; something simple like scrambled eggs or soup. Then dishes. Then an early bedtime. Do the simplest things first. Save the hard thinking for when you’re fresh and stronger.
 
I wondered when that would be, when I’d feel fresh and stronger.
 
The cottage was bought as a retirement place two years ago, when my husband and I were earning good money. Because of its size, it wasn’t expensive. Now, having returned to my native Michigan, it was to be my full-time home, as I figured out the next steps in my life.
 
The cottage sits on eighty-acre Stewart Lake, nestled in more than twenty-two thousand acres of state game and recreation land in Barry County. The far side of the lake is owned by an old cooperative camp; its nearly three hundred acres of land means that my northwest view--of a horizon of hardwood trees following a ridge line, undulating in gentle curves--will never change.
 
The camp, Circle Pines Center, has an interesting history. It was formed in 1940, when a group from the Central States Cooperative League bought the old Stewart farm. Through the 1940s and 1950s, Circle Pines flourished as a family camp and folk school; blues musician Big Bill Broonzy was on staff for a while, and perhaps that’s why folksinger Pete Seeger came to visit. During the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, Circle Pines members were active in antiwar and antinuclear-power demonstrations, and some were active in the civil rights movement. These days, the center continues to espouse a mission of building a sense of cooperation, community, and peace.
 
Stewart Lake has no public access. Because it is a “no-wake” lake, boaters can use only small electric trolling motors to move their crafts. It is refreshingly quiet. Of the forty or so houses on the lake, only a handful are year-round homes. The rest are empty most of the year, save the three long summer weekends of Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. My nearest year-round neighbor to the west is Jim, a retired submariner, four houses away; to the east, three houses away, it’s eight-year-old Dakota, his mom, and her parents. The lake’s peaceful nature was another big draw for us when we bought the cottage.
 
As is true with most lake properties, my lot is small. But the property owners’ association owns fourteen acres across the road, behind me, so that land, too, will never be developed. And with thousands of acres of state land at my doorstep, there is no sense of feeling cramped. Boon and I can walk for miles on trails or just through woods.
 
Wildlife is shockingly abundant here. White-tailed deer, wild turkey, coyotes, rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels, otters, weasels, marten, and mink fill the woods; there are rumors that cougars have made Barry County home. The lake is home to several turtle species, Canada geese, lots of different kinds of ducks, swans, owls, hawks, and even an occasional bald eagle. A loon, solitary, stops by to rest each spring for a couple of weeks on his way north for the summer. Fishermen pull bluegill, sunfish, perch, crappie, and bass--as well as the occasional dogfish and walleye--from the lake. Hummingbirds, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, slate juncos, downy woodpeckers, flickers, bluejays, and Baltimore orioles visit my feeders.
 
I was counting on the lake’s beauty, its wealth of natural riches, to provide sustenance as I rebuilt myself and learned how to live in this small corner of the world.
 
The sun shone brightly the next morning as I finished breakfast. The car still needed unloading, but I was drawn to go for a walk with Boon first. On that first day we just walked up to the nearest stop sign, about a half-mile away; the road’s hills gave us both an energizing work-out.
 
As is typical in early April in Michigan, it was raw and blustery, but it felt good to be outside. Boon romped ahead as I trudged along, eyes down to plot my steps carefully, to keep from slipping and falling on the muddy, rutted road. At the top of the steep hill where the stop sign is, I paused to catch my breath. I lifted my eyes to scan the maples and oaks, looking at the tips of the branches, checking to see if the buds had begun to swell. They had not. It was still sugar season.
 
We make a lot of maple syrup here in Michigan, where old-timers call it “making maple.” The relatively warmer days--with temperatures above freezing--and the still-cold nights of March and April cause the sap to rise in the sugar and black maples that are best for tapping. Fewer than 1 percent of the possible trees for sugaring in Michigan are tapped, and that’s probably because sugaring is a lot of work. First you have to find and tap the trees, which means walking through cold, slushy, muddy woods; then you have to drill the hole, drive in the spile (the little tube that lets the sap drop into a bucket), and attach the bucket. Then you have to come back every day to collect the sap you’ve gathered, and then boil it down to evaporate the water until you get a single gallon of syrup from every forty or so gallons of sap you collected. If your evaporator is wood-fired, you can figure you’ll burn a cord of wood a day for every twenty-five gallons of syrup you make, and all that wood had to be cut, split, and stacked.
 
There have been some minor technological improvements in how the sap is heated to boil off the water--some sugarers use oil or gas now, instead of wood--and some use vacuum tubing to draw the sap for collection. But otherwise, the process is the same as it was when the Ojibway, the Ottawa, and the Potawatomi made syrup in bygone years.
 
When I was growing up, my mother always gave us Michigan maple syrup on pancakes, waffles, and French toast. She disliked the maple-flavored sugar syrup found on supermarket shelves--the Mrs. Butterworth and Log Cabin sort of stuff--and wouldn’t buy it, so I grew up knowing the flavor of real maple syrup. Mom also used maple syrup--sparingly, because it was expensive then as now--on baked ham and in baked beans.
 
She was right to feed us the real thing. Maple syrup has some trace minerals: calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium. It also has some trace vitamins: B2 (riboflavin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), niacin, biotin, and folic acid. Today’s maple-flavored syrups, besides being empty of nutrients, are generally made with high-fructose corn syrup, which I strive to avoid.
 
As I stood at the road’s junction, thinking about maple syrup, I realized that I had most of a half-gallon I bought last summer, still in the refrigerator in the cabin. It was Grade B, which is darker than Grade A, but which I prefer because it seems to have more maple flavor and is perhaps slightly thicker. Mine came from Shane Hickey’s Hill Top Maples in Vermontville, about thirty-five miles from the cottage, where a maple syrup festival is held in late April each year. Kept refrigerated, maple syrup will last a long, long time; if it develops any mold, which has never happened to me, it can be heated, skimmed, and returned to its jug for further storage with little change in flavor.
So perhaps that would be Step One on my road to rebuilding my life: Remembering the good foods that my mother gave me and finding my own sources for them.
 
Boon was restless, ready to return to the warm house. So was I. My heart felt lighter; my mood lifted. On the way, I thought about which maple-infused delicacy I wanted to prepare to please myself. Should it be maple-oatmeal cookies or b...

Revue de presse

"This certainly isn't the first memoir about living la vida locavore, and while its subtitle might inspire a little eye-rolling, the first page lets readers know that the author's scenario is decidedly not contrived. She's middle-aged, suddenly alone and unemployed, and endearing in her frankness about her plight and her financial fears. Though she's not a professionally trained cook, Mather is a longtime food writer and she knows her way around the kitchen. The recipes that accompany her earnest prose are lovely, simple, and just-gourmet-enough. Entries such as whole strawberries in balsamic-black pepper syrup; butternut squash with honey, cherry vinegar, and chipotle; and cardamom-coffee toffee bars are intriguing yet approachable, and they all have a reason, seasonal or otherwise, for being in the book. She shares kitchen wisdom, from the anecdotal ("Get the water on to boil before you pick the corn, and then sprint back to the house with it, shucking as you run") to the practical, such as instructions for making fromage blanc and fresh chevre. (July)"
—Publishers Weekly, 5/16/11

“All Americans know what the good life is supposed to be--­what brands you need, how big a house. So Robin Mather’s fine book is charmingly subversive­--a lovely reminder of, and guide to, the things that really count.”
—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth, founder of 350.org
 
“Can local food work? How does it work? Can my kitchen really be economically viable? The Feast Nearby lovingly and practically illustrates how localization works. Robin Mather opens her heart--indeed, bares her soul--in this captivating journey that affirms everything doable and beautiful about living and eating locally. Everyone should read this book.”
—Joel Salatin, founder of Polyface Farm, author of You Can Farm
 
“Suddenly out of a job and out of a marriage, food writer Robin Mather retreats to her tiny cabin in the Michigan woods. But instead of wallowing in despair, Mather embraces her new life, its many challenges and also its rewards--learning to live and cook frugally and sharing her days with a cast of endearing companions, both human and animal. The Feast Nearby is much more than a cookbook. It is a moving account, in essays, of Mather’s determination to find beauty­--even luxury--in life’s simplest offerings. It is a book of honest prose and simple, honest recipes that celebrate the gifts of each season.”
—Domenica Marchetti, author of The Glorious Pasta of Italy
 
“Robin Mather invites us along on an extraordinary journey: a yearlong migration from loss to discovery, from her familiar life to a new world of satisfaction and joy. Reluctantly trading job, marriage, and city life for a new beginning in a lakeside cottage, she learns to live bountifully and generously on little money by focusing on the kitchen, and by relying on neighbors and friends. If you want to learn about preserving food, making chèvre, and raising chickens, here’s your delicious hands-on primer. If you simply want a moving story handsomely told, this is your book, too. You’ll end up wonderfully fed, body and soul, and clear on what it means to live well.”
—Nancie McDermott, author of Southern Pies

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1406 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 272 pages
  • Editeur : Ten Speed Press (24 mai 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B004CFAWIO
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°460.732 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Amazon.com: 4.6 étoiles sur 5  73 commentaires
46 internautes sur 46 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Wonderful Story + Primer on Eating Locally 31 mai 2011
Par Courtney L. Russell - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I just finished this book after receiving it the day after it was released, and my only complaint is that it wasn't longer! I would love to linger with this author a while more. Ms. Mather's story was moving and inspiring, and I really finished feeling that I could move towards a goal of buying my food more sustainably using the book as a guide. Along with the autobiographical essays, there are delicious sounding recipes (I can't wait to start making them!) and practical wisdom offered about how to put food by in more unusual ways than the strawberry jam we're all used to (although there is a a recipe for strawberry jam as well). I also love that the author's tone was not at all self-congratulatory; rather, the author reminds us that this is actually the way people used to live, in a time before huge supermarkets where out of season produce is available year round and when people were more resourceful.
38 internautes sur 38 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A bounteous Feast 4 juin 2011
Par Robert S. Ingalls - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I must admit that I am very familiar with Robin Mather, who worked at the Detroit News at a time when I was a brand new wife trying to figure out what to do with a kitchen and a husband. An article she wrote about making a vegetable soup out of bits of things in her refrigerator and larder gave me the courage to make a soup from scratch, it was entirely successful. That soup was my epiphany and now I am a very good cook. I thank Robin for that.

This lovely book contains more of the same from Robin Mather, with a heartbreaking and ultimately triumphant story to round out the carefully thought out recipes that accompany each chapter. I plan on using it as a template for the rest of the year, and armed with the knowledge Robin gives on shopping and technique, I can try to cook seasonally.

Robin Mather, along with being a great cook, is a very good writer, graceful and deliberate with her words. Reading this book is like having a relaxed conversation with your (much smarter and more articulate) good friend. She makes a gentle point about what we are doing to ourselves with our over-indulged palates when there are wonderful things to savor with every month. Rural Michigan must seem like a winter wasteland for fresh produce, Robin proves this wrong.

I am glad Robin emerged from her terrible horrible year successfully, and am looking forward to reading more (and more) from this wonderful writer. Buy this book, buy this book for your foodie friends.

(Not really Robert S. Ingalls but his happily cooking wife Barbara)
44 internautes sur 45 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 For your reading pantry ... 4 août 2011
Par Zinta Aistars - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
The subtitle of Robin Mather's The Feast Nearby is a mouthful (pun intended), but it sums the book up nicely: "How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way to keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on forty dollars a week)."

Robin Mather is a seasoned food writer and editor, having written 30 years for papers such as Chicago Tribune and The Detroit News and now at Mother Earth News. The Feast Nearby is her second book; the first, published in 1995, Garden of Unearthly Delight: Bioengineering and the Future of Food, perhaps before its time, discussing the two sides of eating locally or eating genetically modified foods.

The book caught my attention for several reasons. I have been eating predominantly locally grown, organic foods for some years now, and find myself as enthused about this food adventure today as I was when I first started. More so. I still can't believe what I've been missing most of my life in terms of culinary joy. But I was also intrigued because the cottage to which Mathers moved was in the neighborhood where I'd lived once--near Delton, in Michigan's Barry County.

I was also curious about Mather's claim to eat local and organic foods on $40 a week. Not that I am not already a believer. I don't spend much either, and I don't even can and preserve, but I do hear that complaint more often than I can count--that eating organic is too expensive. I'm still baffled by that. I spend less on groceries today than I did when I bought my food at the supermarket, packaged and wrapped.

Cooking from scratch is almost always less expensive. Add to that the joys of cooking with friends and family in the kitchen and at the table and, well, you get the idea of real value for your food dollar.

One might say that people tend to compare apples to oranges when they talk about cost. As Mather so well illustrates in her book, eating this way doesn't have to cost more. It tends to cost less. What does change, however, is one's eating habits. For me, this happened quite naturally once I started buying more of my food at farmers markets or even directly from the farmer, right on the farm. It became a new lifestyle, one that I enjoy immensely. It involves community, friendships, the building of enjoyable relationships that revolve around food ... and who doesn't know that when you throw a good party, more times than not, everyone ends up in the kitchen?

Mather's lifestyle change and food adventure evolve from what must have surely been a week from hell. As so many journalists, she was laid off from her newspaper job. That's bad enough, but this happened within days of hearing from her 12-year husband that he wanted a divorce. Ouch and ouch.

Whether Mather really is such a trooper or she just keeps it to a low simmer, but her book does not show much anguish or turmoil at such a double whammy. This isn't a book about shedding tears or general introspection. She simply packs up her dog, Boon, and her bird, Pippin (later to be joined by cat, Guff), and moves to the summer cottage in southwest Michigan the married couple had owned but the now single woman makes a permanent residence.

Time to set up a budget. Mather does what she does best: she shops for good food on a smart dollar, getting to know the locals in the process. As those who eat organic food and shop locally know, you soon learn to change how you eat, planning your menus around what is available when, rather than buying the items to meet the menu. One eats in season, and science is beginning to show that this may prove to be best for our health--and our wallet.

Mather is a good cook, and the 150 or so recipes she intersperses between her seasonal essays are good recipes. That is, I haven't tried them yet, but I plan to, and they were simple enough that I could read them with enjoyment, almost as if part of the preceding essay, a continuation of her story. They mostly use local foods, yet include a pinch of this or a dollop of that, bringing them a touch of the gourmet.

For those who live in the area described, as I do, I especially enjoyed reading about local markets. In fact, as I write this, my plan for the approaching weekend is to find the local butcher shop she describes, Geuke's Market in Middleville, Michigan, and stock up my own freezer. Reading about it once again made me realize why so many are so enthused about local markets. When she described the food available there, she also described the owner, Don Geuke, and the first seed of a food relationship is sown. That's something you never experience in the supermarket.

For those seeking a gritty story about a woman handling life upheaval, this isn't it. Mather's style is gentle storytelling, and she doesn't go deep. Her way is more to skim the fat off the surface and make a fine presentation, leave the rest up to you. The reader doesn't develop an intimate relationship with this author, but that may not have been her intent. Save the intimate relationship for reader and dish. This is a blend of cozy essay and cookbook, a nurturing nudge toward considering a more sensible and more sustainable lifestyle--and leave the excuses about financial constraints behind.

If we are a society that has forgotten how to cook, or how to keep a kitchen and a well-stocked pantry, Mather will be just the spice you need. Pull your chair to the table, read and eat the many flavors you've been missing.
13 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 She's living the life I hope to live 7 janvier 2012
Par pds - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Robin Mather is an engaging writer, a talented woman and brave in a way I hope to be in the near future. I have been planning the same lifestyle because I thrive on simple living (that's certainly not to say one without hard work) and am well accustumed to making do. I was moved to read of her first night at her small lake house with the unknown ahead of her. Well, not quite so unknown. Ms. Mather drew on her childhood upbringing and returned to a basic, satisfying life with her animals and her independant spirit.

One of my more difficult decisions has been how will I cope with the fact that everyone I have been reading about raises their own animals to slaughter? I love animals too much to know them personally in my life and on my table. Robin raises a small flock of chickens for their eggs and buys her table chickens already processed from a local source. Her lake property is too shady to grow fruits and vegetables but she manages a dish herb garden in a sunnier spot and has been blessed with neighbors that share their garden bounty with her (recieving the fruits of her talents - canned salsa's, jams, baked goods, knitted hats and such). She buys everything she possibly can from local sources or orders it from small farms and fair-trade like sources. She provides much appreciated advice on how to obtain the best foodstuffs such as humanely raised meat, growth hormone-less milk, local milled gains and organic fruits and vegetables for what she still needs to purchase.

I was encouraged to read how she figured out the quanties of canned/dried/frozen supplies she would need throughout the year and how she was able to plan the cost of these necessities. Ms.Mather came from a career and lifestyle that was filled with lavish and rich foodstuff and wines, including many international varieties. Did she give these things up in the name of thrift and practicality? Not at all. While she no longer entertaines on a grand scale she makes small batches of pate', canned liquored cherries, bursting-with-flavor jars of sauces, pickled vegetables, pie fillings, spiced nuts and other delights. Be aware: This book does NOT read like a Martha-Stewart-dream-summer-at-the-lake book. These small treats appear on her menu next to good old-fashioned comfort food, homemade yogurt, cornbread and (mmm) home-made honey oat bread. The first time she has to entertain people from out of town whom she has never met she does exactly what I would do - panics momentarily and comes to terms with a big hurdle - her home, budget and decor are what they are, small, frugal and homemade. (The evening was deeply enjoyed by all).

I have limited physical abilities but I read nothing in The Feast Nearby that I felt I could not accomplish with a plan and a paced, steady effort. I love the idea of a full, small homestead but it really would be too grand for me to work alone. After reading this true story I know it doesn't have to be that extreem to be successful. I would love to know this woman, I still have questions (does she fish from that very large lake?)and hope she will write more about her life soon. Ms. Mather has done much to allay my insecurities about the future and is the first author that has made me truly feel that I can learn how to preserve, dry and can food so I not only know pantry-security year-round but enjoy various treats, modest but posh holiday meals and celebrations. To paraphrase: Living well, while living modestly, economically and supporting local/small/green, etc. farmers, being happy with your choices, your companions and friends, having warmth, nature and all that makes you well and content, is truly the best and sweetest, revenge. Thank you Robin, for this wonderful, gentle, encouragement and useful advice. I wish you contiuned blessings.
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Simply amazing 6 juin 2011
Par Miss Cherry Jones - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I love this book. How do you expand on that? Ms. Mather's writing is easy to read, but not to say it's simple. She has a wonderful, flowing style. It's like she's talking just to you. The ideas of living simply couldn't be more universal. Good, fresh, local (for the most part) food is going to be the best and least expensive in the long run. Learning to cook and preserve will do wonders for your wallet and soul. I only wish the book was longer. I will be reading this until it falls apart.
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Make regular grits, polenta, and mush all the same way: one-half cup cornmeal to one-half cup cold water; stir together to prevent lumps, then slowly add two cups boiling water and cook over very low heat, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture is thick and bubbly and tastes cooked, usually within twenty minutes (although &quote;
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Cornbread is so easy to make that I cant figure the appeal of mixes: Stir together one cup each cornmeal and self-rising flour, two beaten eggs, three tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter, two tablespoons of sugar if youre not a breast-pounding Southerner, and enough buttermilk or milk to make a stiff batter; bake at 350°F until golden, preferably in a well-greased ten-inch cast-iron skillet. &quote;
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&quote;
But eggs freeze easily. I separate the eggs, place the white from each egg into a compartment of an ice cube tray, and then pop the frozen whites into zip-top freezer bags. They whip into frothy meringues and airy soufflés as well as fresh egg whites do. Egg yolks require a bit of extra treatment and will become unusable without it. They need  teaspoon of salt, or 1 teaspoons sugar, for every 4 yolks, lightly beaten. I freeze those in containers, labeled for sweet (with sugar) or savory (with salt) dishes. Both the whites and yolks will keep for up to a year. &quote;
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