Does it matter where our food comes from? Do we, our communities, and the planet do better if we choose food grown by local sources we trust? Exploring these and other questions of dietary and spiritual subsistence, Gary Paul Nabhan's Coming Home to Eat
presents a compelling case for eating from our "foodshed."
Nabhan, a subsistence hunter, ethnobiologist, and activist devoted to recovering lost food traditions, gave himself a task: to spend a year trying to eat foods grown, fished, or gathered within 250 miles of his Arizona home. His book, both personal document and political screed, details this experiment from the moment Nabhan purges his kitchen of canned and other processed foods ("If this year could resolve anything for me, perhaps it would rid me of the desire to ever again buy any packaged food that boasted of its homemade flavor....") to a final food-gathering pilgrimage. That journey underscores Nabhan's conviction that we have too easily believed "the vacuous nutritional promises of the industrialized food that has sold our health down the river." In fact, the book encompasses an ongoing pilgrimage, during which Nabhan explores, for example, the near loss of saguaro cactus fruit as a dietary staple due to saguaro's use for "local color" in shopping malls, golf courses, and retirement centers. Readers, converted, skeptical, or just curious, will find Nabhan's book a source of many simple and stirring truths. "Until we stop craving to be somewhere else and someone else other than the animals whose very cells are constituted from the place on earth we love the most," he writes, "then there is little reason to care about the fate of native foods, family farms, or healthy landscapes and communities." But care we must, as the book shows so enlighteningly. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
In this intriguing yet unsatisfying volume, the author chronicles a year of striving for a diet consisting of 90% native flora and fauna, found within 250 miles of his Arizona home. Nabhan (Cultures of Habitat) packs the book with telling local detail; the saguaro cactus, for example, is being cleared from the Sonoran Desert at a rate of 40 acres per day. An ethnobotanist with an interest in seed preservation and director of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University, Nabhan is remarkably knowledgeable about plant species and the traditions of local tribes; indeed, his nature writings and conservation activism have won him a MacArthur award. But Nabhan's tone is so phlegmatic that his accounts have little emotional impact. (After an unsettling attempt to slaughter some turkeys he had raised, an effort that left him splattered with blood, he describes himself as "a little shook up.") His reactions become predictable (and preachy): he tastes a native food, recounts its history and waxes nave about how wonderful it is ("If a native food tasted this good, why did it ever fall out of favor?"). His project sometimes seems doctrinaire; he doesn't admit to ever craving an Oreo or tasting a local food that's not to his liking. Nabhan's book is informative, but doesn't leave a distinct flavor in the reader's mouth. 15 illus. and one map not seen by PW. (Nov.)Forecast: As an upbeat counterpart to Eric Schlosser's recent Fast Food Nation, this book may attract some attention. An author tour in areas where devotion to "local foods" is prevalent (Tucson, Phoenix, Portland, Bay Area) should also help.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.