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Lusty Lady

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

How Santa's flying reindeer relate to psychotropic mushrooms and so much more from Spring Warren's memoir Quarter-Acre Farm

I'm so taken with Spring Warren's memoir The Quarter-Acre Farm: How I Kept the Patio, Lost the Lawn, and Fed My Family for a Year, just out from Seal Press, with gorgeous illustrations by Jesse "Nemo" Pruet. You can find out more about her gardening experiment on her blog Quarter-Acre Farm.

One thing I love about the book is that I have no intention of ever growing anything; I just don't see how I could in Brooklyn and even if I lived in somewhere less urban, I barely cook as it is. That's where I want to start (especially with Isa Chandra Moskowitz's new vegan cookbook Appetite for Reduction). But I'm enjoying Quarter-Acre Farm for the same reason I enjoy any memoir: it's teaching me something. And is whipsmart and funny too. Warren has a sense of humor and isn't trying to sell anyone else, necessarily, on doing what she did. She's sharing the ups, downs and odds and ends of growing her own food for a year, and how her family, friends, neighbors and animals (geese!) reacted.

Here's a little bit of trivia for you from Quarter-Acre Farm. If you want some great recipes and an entertaining look at how one woman went about setting up a home garden in Davis, California, I highly recommend it.

For instance, psychotropic mushrooms are said to be the source of the myth of Santa's flying reindeer. Lapland reindeer apparently love Amanita muscaria mushroom, which are not only hallucinogenic but they also supposedly stimulate the animal's muscular system. This made small efforts on the part of the reindeer produce surprising results--enormous reindeer leaps. These leaps then led to stories of flying reindeer, which were eventually assimilated into the folklore of St. Nicholas.

I mean, come on, how can you not love that? Followed by a recipe for mushroom soup! Her writing style is sometimes humorous, but mostly I'd say lively. It's engaging and makes you want to garden if it would provide so much sense of discovery about the world around us and what we eat (and some sobering thoughts on pesticides).

Also, not about gardening, but I'd never heard of cranberry beans before I started reading this book, and there they were in the Brunch Beans stew at my local standby, Saltie, making them my new favorite dish there. Highly recommended! I totally ate the bread first, though next time I'd recommend saving one or two pieces to sop up the stew. So hearty and perfect for a rainy day.

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