Customer Reviews: Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection
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This book is a personal re-examination of food--what we eat, and why we eat it. In this book, Prentice examines food customs and traditions, searching for their physiological and environmental rationale. Her primary observation about food traditions is that they are strictly tied to the seasons, and thus the continual year-round availability of our foodstuffs has resulted in loss of much traditional knowledge about what is good for us and what isn't. In recognition of the essential seasonality of foods, Prentice organizes this book into the thirteen moons that make up the year, from the famine moon, to the sap moon, from the egg moon to the corn moon, from the blood moon to the wolf moon.

Each chapter describes the ecology that led to the association between a particular food item and a specific time of the year. In the chapters, Prentice discusses the nutritional contributions of the featured food items, and how her relationship with that food has changed over the years. For example, she explains how she used to avoid milk and other dairy products, but now relishes them as a gift of love from Mother Earth. Each chapter also includes recipes of the season, ranging from exotic dishes of non-Western food cultures, like Cardamom and Jaggery pudding, to simple directions for lost arts, such as rendering pork, or making homemade yogurt and sauerkraut.

Prentice was once a strict vegan, who for health reasons, eventually found herself drawn to a diet which includes animal products, but not the products of industrial agriculture. There is much that vegetarians and vegans would not like in Prentice's essays, since she explains how her 10 years of vegetarianism were not healthy for her. Having had the same experience myself after being a vegetarian for 20 years, I can appreciate the wisdom in what she writes. While vegetarian diets work well for some, they are not appropriate for everybody. But at the same time, diets that include the consumption of industrially produced and processed animal products do nobody any good. We need to be willing to recognize our relation and responsibilities to the animals that we consume.

I first heard of this book when I attended a Vermont Localvore potluck at which Prentice was the invited guest chef. I was deeply offended then at her attitude, when she announced she was going to make a salad using a recipe from her book, but lamented the lack of local artichokes or olive oil. `How could such a person be associated with local cooking,' I wondered, `if she doesn't even have the sense to find out what the best local ingredients are and celebrate them, instead of parading the products of another region in front of us?' I figured that a seasonal local cookbook written by a national author would be a worthless concept. Fortunately, that's not what this book attempts--instead the book is much more about rediscovering our connection to food than about specific local recipes.

Although she has become famous for leading the concept of eating foods only from one's local region, what she urges here is really an appreciation for the products of small farms. Thus, instead of simply cheering on local food, Prentice argues in this book that our industrial agriculture system has torn us away from one of the most essential of human traits, our relationship to the food that nourishes us. Instead of following diets of avoidance, Prentice advocates recognizing the meaning that each item of food brings to our lives, and using food to re-establish our connection to the land. Indeed, the only foods that Prentice avoids are those heavily processed products of industrial agriculture: refined sugar, white flour, and pre-packaged extruded junk. Although the book contains a few recipes, it is not a cookbook, but rather a wake-up call: "Our poor diet is at least partly a physical manifestation of a spiritual decay," together with some suggestions of how we can begin the journey back to healthy eating.
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on June 6, 2006
Jessica Prentice's book was a joy to read. In fact, it is so readable, I've recommended it as a book club selection to several friends -- after all, we all eat! The way Prentice talks about eating and food, it is like she is an old friend on a passionate adventure.

I have spent years of searching for a way of eating that seems "right" nutritionally (from all-American to vegetarian to vegan to macrobiotic to low-carb to Gittleman!). I have owned books on all of them, and I have lived all of them. None have made as much sense intellectually AND intuitively as what Jessica describes. Her book is organized by thirteen moons, and each moon represents a theme. This organization is one of the things that makes her book so readable - each chapter is a complete exploration of that theme, and then you're off to another theme.

Jessica's work is well-researched, well-written, fascinating, inspiring, and for me, life-changing. I took my hundred-or-so other cookbooks and diet books to the used bookstore, purchased a few others that Prentice recommended in her resources, and my kitchen supply of books is now complete at only a few books rather than the close to 100 that I owned before. I feel THAT sure of this.

This book is for everyone -- interested in nutrition or not. I guarantee you will enjoy it, you will learn things you didn't know about what you eat, and you will be inspired by Prentice's knowledge and passion. And if you are searching for a way of eating that makes sense intellectually AND intuitively (and feels GOOD physically), you will have found a path home.
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on April 14, 2006
Blending food lore, memoir, and recipes, "Full Moon Feast" appeals on many levels. I learned more about food than what's in my standard cookbooks. But thanks to Jessica Prentice's conversational style, I didn't feel like I had to work hard to do it. Her evocative prose inspired me to learn more about the issues she raised, cook more, and eat better -- and just plain eat. You'll get hungry reading this book!

The author uses lunar cycles as a launching pad to discuss old food ways and current corporate food practices without being preachy or long-winded. I found it interesting to learn how our ancestors ate and prepared food, and how relatively easy it is to preserve those traditions today. The recipes at the end of each chapter provide accessible ways to eat seasonal foods and try your hand at making foods based on older methods. I made 2 recipes and found them straightforward, complete and delicious. I also liked the extensive list of resources at the end. Her facts are footnoted.

"Full Moon Feast" offers wisdom on food choices for cooks and noncooks a like. A great gift for a foodie or environmentalist.
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on May 24, 2006
This book is a great deal more than just a cookbook. Rather it is an historical account of the human relationship with food before the great energy bonanza of the fossil fuel revolution made so many things appear easy, at least in the "developed world." But, as it becomes increasing clear that this bounty is failing, and that the economic and technological precepts upon which our civilization is based have certain fatal flaws from an ecological standpoint, we would do well to remember the wolf moon and the hunger moon that Prentice invokes so eloquently, and to contemplate why the people of old called their months so, and what that could mean to us in the future.

Reading this book brought me to tears at times, as I contemplated these subjects, and the fragile bonds we humans have with all of creation. I hope to never experience a true "hunger moon", but am afraid I may as climate change, oil depletion, and an increasing toxic load threaten our food supplies. It could all come crashing down very quickly. I am glad to have this small map of how our ancestors managed to feed themselves even without the technology we have come to rely upon.
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on May 2, 2006
I love this book! The folklore blends easially with the recipes and information as well as the personal stories. This book is must for anyone interested in tradiational nutrition and medicine. It is soon to be a new classic like Nourishing Traditions!
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on March 28, 2006
I loved this book. Part memoir, part culinary history, this book explores our increasingly tenuous relationship to the community, healthy eating, and a healthy planet. Jessica's book is in turns educational, heartwarming, and alarming--try eating white sugar after reading about cane sugar production.

Great recipes, too.
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on June 5, 2006
Full Moon Feast: Food And The Hunger For Connection by Jessica Prentice is an engaging guide to the beautifully intricate art of culinary creations in synchronization with the cycles of an agrarian calendar. Accurately following the thirteen lunar cycles in periods of their yearly contributions and celebrations, Full Moon Feast knowledgeably explores varying moons cycles with seasonally appropriate recipes ranging from Blood Moon Swedish Meatballs; Stir-fry of Pork and Vegetables with Ginger; and Beef Broth; to Egg Moon's Avocado and Hard-Cooked Eggs with a Lemony Dressing; Stracciatella (Roman Egg Drop Soup); and Spring Tonic Nettle Soup. A unique original concept in cookbooks, Full Moon Feast is very highly recommended as a concise and "kitchen cook friendly" guide to the full-moon celebrations through healthy dining.
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on August 21, 2009
This is a terrific book that I stumbled on almost by accident at the SF Green Festival. I was attracted to the cover, which had symbols connected to ancient names of moons I'd heard mentioned by ritual oriented women friends. I was tired, and I knew I didn't have the energy to deal with going into the festival. Instead I looked at this book and what really caught my interest enough for me to buy the book was the following passage:
"Regardless of what I actually ate-whether it was salads or pizza or Thanksgiving dinner- I never felt satisfied or truly nourished. I was in a state of continual state of either hunger or overfullness, often experiencing both at the same time. It would be years before I figured out why this is so. But at the time, my worry over what I was eating gave way to worry over worrying about what I was eating. My obsession with food seemed unhealthy, pathological, and I needed to get over it.
But I didn't. On and on it went like that: dieting, binging,feeling hungry, feeling stuffed, feeling sick, making resolutions to do better, failing to do better, hating myself for failing, hating myself for hating myself. It went on for years".
I bought the book, took it home and read the whole thing from cover to cover. It has extraordinary depth, unexpected and surprising twists and turns through all kinds of subjects about the connection of people to food and life. It is also literally delicious to read. I loaned this book to a woman who is a food writer and founder of several local farmer's markets in my area. I couldn't get the book back or out of her grip for over two years! With good reason, as this book is a feast all it's own. A must read for anyone who gives a damn about how we are involved with food.
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on December 27, 2011
Full Moon Feat, by Jessica Prentice, is a book that by its cover could be easily dismissed by a large majority of the population as being another Earth-based, hippie-oriented book that reinforces the ideals of sustainability, eco-friendly, and conscious or ethical eating. While it is all those things, I found that Prentice wrote this book for a larger base of readers. She didn't gear this book toward anyone particular group instead she wrote in a way which is meant to draw in those who may not open themselves to the ideals of sustainable living and ethical eating. While the book is just a commentary on the knowledge that is widely available to those who are looking for it, what Prentice effectively does is combine all of these different bases of knowledge into a very readable format which makes it more accessible, more readable and therefore better able to be processed by people who may not have knowledge of these matters. She touches on a wide range of individual topics that fall under the umbrella of "sustainable-living" and she does so in a manner which gives you a foundation of these individual issues while also leaving plenty of room for questions and curiosity to grow. It is a book that I am very glad that I read because even though I have long been concerned with food and what I put into my body, I learned from it myself and I gained a wider appreciation for the different philosophies that are out there on sustainability.

A kudos to my field of choice, a lot of the works of literature which Prentice references are works by anthropologists, or works that are well known within the field of anthropology and archaeology. Sustainability is a reoccurring theme within anthropology and archaeology because as researchers who study other cultures beside the Western we see and are exposed to the encroachment of this unsustainable lifestyle occurring within these indigenous cultures and their respective landscapes. I was very happy to see that she referenced many different anthropologists, not all of whom I agree with. Some of the ideas she brought up in the later chapters I did not whole heartedly agree with, but the ideas and concepts that were brought up were very intriguing and I have successfully added at least five books to my Amazon wish list as a result.

Prentice focuses on the health repercussions of non-sustainable factory systems on everyday people. Health, and its repercussions, in this sense is a generic term which encompasses the use of antibiotics in animal farming, pesticides, as well as our own dentition and the effects that processed foods have on our ability to ingest and then use different types of nutrients. Besides health she talks about sustainable farming in which cover-cropping is used and the top soil is not being depleted but is actually being added to even though the same patches of land are being used over and over again. She speaks about and references the many different cultures she has encountered in her own reading or experiences which approach living and different aspects of health and community in their own ways. She is adamant about the Middle Path, which is common in Buddhist thought. The Middle Path is about not living strictly on one side or the other but being willing to compromise and avoid failing altogether. In Full Moon Feast, Prentice frames this within the idea of preserving gift-giving. Gift-giving is this sense of community in which indebtedness is a good thing because it reinforces this bond that you have with those who surround you. She relates this back to food intake by drawing from a personal example and experience she had in Thailand. Looking back on her experience she recognizes the grave error she made in refusing meat-products that were offered to her. In retrospect she realizes that by them offering food, meat in particular, which they had very little of, she ignored the reality of the gesture being a huge sign of welcome and honor. This example really spoke to me because I remember when I went to Malaysia I made the choice to include meat in the dishes I would eat for this exact reasons. The underlying idea is that while in your private life you want to maintain a sustainable lifestyle, however if you are around and engaged in a community where others are not you don't simply refuse, you accept the offerings. In other situations, where there is no host with which you could create this sense of indebtedness, you don't force your ideals on others, instead you lead by example and are sort of just there. You have this presence, and then people can and will ask about why you eat and live the way you do.

I'm encouraging others to read this book not only because I believe in its message, but because it so grounded in the idea of the Middle Path that it makes approaching the idea of living in a sustainable way a possible feat. It also references many scientific studies--which in any other context I have found to be very hard to understand even with my background in sciences--in a way which makes them comprehensible and relatable. I believe that this is a great book for anyone who is curious about sustainable living, why it exists, what it is founded upon and why we--everyone in the world--should care. It's also an enlightening read for those of us who believe we already know the answers to these questions. It is a great book that covers a large amount of founding principles within the sustainable living movement, and is enjoyable to read. Also, on top of all this wonderful dialogue it generates, Full Moon Feast is a cookbook. So, within its chapters are many recipes that range from herbal ales to Swedish Meatballs.
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on May 22, 2006
Chef and food activist Jessica Prentice arrives here with a mission: to promote locally grown, humanely raised foods and traditional cooking methods. She use the thirteen lunar cycles of a year as a foundation for her discussions, including recipes in each chapter but also including history, myths, political and social insights, and more. Plenty of reflections and first-person professional and personal insights provide a satisfying balance between literature, theory, and applied wisdom. To call this a 'cookbook' of any kind is limiting its appeal: FULL MOON FEAST: FOOD AND THE HUNGER FOR CONNECTION is so much more.

Diane C. Donovan, Editor

California Bookwatch
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