A professor and journalist’s engaging account of how being an urban forager in New York City led her to unexpected personal enlightenment.
As a child growing up in 1970s Queens, New York Times “Wild Edibles” columnist Chin (Creative Nonfiction/CUNY; Split: Stories from a Generation Raised on Divorce, 2002) loved nothing better than to root around in the soil near her single mother’s apartment or savor the delicious foods her Chinese-born grandfather prepared in his kitchen. Yet the “lessons on life” she learned came from neither her mother nor her grandfather. Instead, they came from a feisty, loving grandmother who helped Chin weather painful emotional storms that resulted from rocky parental and romantic relationships. By the time Chin reached her late 30s, she turned her early love of digging in the dirt into a serious interest in urban foraging. The deeper she ventured into her interests, however, the more her grandmother’s health, and the author’s personal life, began to decline. Faced with the loss of the woman who had taken “the place of mother in [her] heart” and the possibility of permanent singledom, Chin began reflecting on her life and the people in it. She and her often self-absorbed mother “acted as if…there was never enough time or love or money to go around to sustain us.” Yet the natural world was a place of abundance where all things were possible, and while life was a series of stages that eventually culminated in death, to appreciate it meant seeing all things as attempts to cope with the at-times hostile “wilderness of the city.” As she hunted the urban wilds of NYC for motherwort, mulberries and mushrooms, Chin not only cultivated acceptance, but also discovered an even more tantalizing prize: love. Interspersed throughout with delicious urban forager recipes, Chin’s book delights as it informs and inspires.
A delectable feast of the heart.