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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) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 24, 2011


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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) + The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love + Barnheart: The Incurable Longing for a Farm of One's Own
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (May 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158008558X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580085588
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

The recipes are lovely, simple, and just-gourmet-enough ...such as whole strawberries in balsamic-black pepper syrup; butternut squash with honey, cherry vinegar, and chipotle ... all have a reason for being in the book. --Publishers Weekly

"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

About the Author

Robin Mather is a Michigan native and third-generation journalist whose passion for food and its sources has taken her around the country and the world. She is a two-time James Beard Award finalist for feature writing on food, and her work has been syndicated in newspapers and magazines across North America and abroad.
 
Mather was the food editor of the Detroit News, a senior writer at Cooking Light magazine, and most recently, a staff reporter for the food section of the Chicago Tribune. She also started and ran a small goat dairy from 1995 to 2000 in Mississippi. Her first book, A Garden of Unearthly Delights: Bioengineering and the Future of Food, was the first to expose genetic modification of crops and livestock (and its consequences for the food supply) for a broad market. She lives in a 650-square-foot cottage on a small lake in southwest Michigan, where she is eight miles from the nearest street light. Visit her online at thefeastnearby.com. 

More About the Author

What do you do when your world collapses? In my case, you write a book.

My second book, The Feast Nearby, is due from Ten Speed Press in May 2011. It details my locavore year on just $40 a week for groceries. I was driven to the experiment by losing both a marriage and a career in the span of 7 days, and I'm pleased to say that living well is, indeed, the best revenge.

My first book, A Garden of Unearthly Delights: Bioengineering and the Future of Food (Dutton, 1995) was published far ahead of the curve. In it, I cheerfully advocated for sustainability in our food supply, after visiting farms both industrially and sustainably minded.

With more than 30 years of writing about food for publications ranging from the Detroit News and Chicago Tribune to Cooking Light magazine, my knowledge of food runs both broad and deep.

A Michigan native, I now live in southwest Michigan with an aging standard poodle, an African Grey parrot and a pestilential cat. Oh, and two laying hens.

Customer Reviews

Enjoy your visit with neighbor Robin as you read this book!
annesailorgirl
I loved this book so much I bought a copy for myself AND for two of my best friends!
KMV
The book has a great lay-out of stories and then sharing some wonderful recipes.
MerCSakes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Courtney L. Russell on May 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Robert S. Ingalls on June 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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)
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Zinta Aistars on August 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By pds on January 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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.
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