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Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal Hardcover – May 13, 2014
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A few dandelion greens here, some wood sorrel there, perhaps some daylily shoots thrown in for color and tang. Creating a meal from what some would call weeds was Chin’s specialty. The “Urban Forager” columnist for the New York Times, Chin happily spent her days like a rabbit, nibbling her way around the city streets and urban parks of her native Brooklyn. She did this not out of necessity due to impoverished circumstances but out of a passion for the healthy, diverse cuisine and healing properties native plants provide. She also did it out of a sense of loss and discovery. Abandoned by her father before she was born, Chin was raised by an embittered single mother and doting grandparents. Although she ultimately achieved professional success, her personal relationships failed miserably. Foraging helped her understand loss and rejection, and her poignantly candid memoir illustrates that one sometimes has to veer from the beaten path to find what one needs in life and in love. --Carol Haggas
"In this instructive and often charming book, Chin, who wrote the Urban Forager blog for The New York Times, explores uncultivated tracts of land -- from Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Central Park in Manhattan to...a housing complex in Boulder, Colo. -- in search of physical and emotional sustenance....Studded with instructions for everything from identifying edible plants...to preparing a wild foods brunch..."Eating Wildly" should inspire readers to grab a box cutter and some baggies and head for the nearest park."
--The New York Times Book Review
"Chin's story is as much about her personal journey as it is about the food, a pot-boiling mix of narrative and instruction. Sharply revealing, and, at times, uncomfortably honest, the book throws wide a window into a fascinating New York -- nee, American -- story, that's thrillingly voyeuristic to read and unbearably human." --The Village Voice
"A delectable feast of the heart." --Kirkus Reviews
"From the first pages of Chin's memoir-with-recipes, you'll be rooting for her as she roots for wild edibles in NYC."
"Chin's memoir is the story of finding when you've stopped looking so hard and offers practical advice for foragers of all experience levels."
--Starred review Library Journal
“You’ll root for Ava Chin from page one of her winsome memoir. Loves lost, herbs, mushrooms, and vegetation of all sorts found, and then how love—elusive and rare—follows suit like a ‘patch of violets’ among the weeds. Her story is not only about where to look for love and forage for edibles, but rather about how to keep your heart wide open while doing so.” (Monique Truong, bestselling author of Bitter in the Mouth)
“Like the Metaphysical poets, Ava Chin finds the world in a weed, making us hungry for mysteries, edible and otherwise. So spare and careful is her prose, one at first is unaware of how moving and instructive her foraging excursions are. But by the time this quiet, enchanting memoir ends, and she has unearthed not only exotic foods but much of love and life as well, we realize a heightened taste for everything.” (Roger Rosenblatt, bestselling author of Making Toast)
“EATING WILDLY is a pithy, elegant memoir that takes the reader into the urban wilderness and the thorny complexities of family and love. Ava Chin is a warm-hearted, intelligent, and trustworthy guide to hidden treasures and hard-won finds, whether a trove of oyster mushrooms, a backyard mulberry tree, or compassion and forgiveness.” (Kate Christensen, award-winning author of The Great Man)
“Ava Chin’s memoir has forever altered my relationship with nature; as a city girl I finally grasp the concept of finding oneself in the woods. The author forages through her past much in the same way she hunts for mushrooms, tenderly, with an almost worshipful respect for the delicate process of unearthing one’s true self; the hidden treasure lying buried under the debris of everyday existence. I was left feeling awed by her courageous honesty and thrilled by her story of self-made redemption. Ava has inspired me to look deeper than the surface, both internally and externally, and I have a feeling she will convert many an urban dweller to the joys of ‘eating wildly.’” (Deborah Feldman, bestselling author of Unorthodox and Exodus)
“EATING WILDLY, Ava Chin’s terrific new memoir, connects it all—nature, self-discovery, and finding love. It’s a journey of letting go and getting grubby, with lots of tips for urban food foragers. Chin is a personable narrator, who gently instructs while collecting wild edibles, and reveals her sometimes painful past with wry wisdom.” (Novella Carpenter, bestselling author of Farm City)
“Forget the dude chefs and rockstar butchers. Chin’s clear, honest prose forges the link between locavores and immigrant foodways without pretense or pose, sharing heartache and joy—and all the muddied life that roils in between. Like sitting with a good friend at the kitchen table, EATING WILDLY is a pleasure that lasts long after you're done.”
(Tracie McMillan, bestselling author of The American Way of Eating)
“EATING WILDLY intertwines the explorations of New York City’s urban flora and the inner life of a thirtysomething single woman into a memoir rich with revelations, both personal and culinary. It makes you want to grab a bag and run out and forage in the parks so you too can have Wild Morel Linguini.” (Jennifer 8. Lee, bestselling author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles)
Top customer reviews
Chin examines the relationships in her life - her self-absorbed parents,devoted grandparents, relationships gone flat - much the same way - discerning their value and nourishment in her life. Some relationships are a balm for ones that sting, and others offer sustenance for those that lack emotional fullness. In the end, Chin ends up with the prize morels AND the soul mate, but she came by neither easily and experienced some heart-wrenching life lessons along the way.
I grew up in the same part of Queens where portions of the book is set. Many times, I found myself reliving moments of my childhood in Chin's prose. As a child, I sought out the natural world in the gritty, evolving urban setting in much the same determined fashion that Chin forages in local parks and postage-sized yards. And in an odd stroke of where life meets art, my reading of the chapter where the fruiting mulberry tree offers deep comfort to Chin coincided with my own mulberry tree producing abundant fruit. The message to me was one present throughout "Eating Wildly,": life can be bitter and also sweet. We need both to truly savor life in all its fullness and complexity.
Memoir is a genre I am wary of--so often these are stories that disgorge the author's past without an iota of care for the reader. Not this one. Just when I was feeling a bit suffocated by intense, painful details from Ava's life, she'd whisk me outdoors on another foraging expedition. Let's go look for mushrooms! Let me tell you about lambsquarters! Did you know motherwort is good for worriers? The effect is to take focus off herself and let the reader breathe. Here is the healing bounty of the earth -- for me, for you and for all of us, she seems to be saying.
By the end of her book, I came away knowing and liking my CSA acquaintance even more. Ava is a pip--brave, smart, truthful and extremely funny. I rooted for her across the pages, reading into the late hours (the page-turner effect) to discover if she had found what she was looking for. I won't divulge the answer. You will have to read this poignant and buoyant memoir for yourself!
I am not a New Yorker --but had just returned from a NY trip when I read this. The writing provides you with such a visceral depiction of the different streets, parks, and backyards she visited. I felt as if I could walk through these parks myself. This is an excellent summer read that I highly recommend.
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