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Things Worth Savoring

by David Mas Masumoto

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-393-01960-8
Publisher: Norton

California farmer/memoirist Masumoto (Harvest Son, 1998, etc.) meanders through his fields and memories by way of the five senses.

As agriculture increasingly focuses on big business and the bottom line, Masumoto has become an eloquent voice for that increasingly rare breed, the family farmer. Working the land his parents worked before him, his life revolves around the production of Sun Crest peaches and writing evocative books about the process. Here, the author leads a tactile tour of the farm over time. Vivid passages introduce each of the book's five sections, as Masumoto recalls the smell of wet concrete, the taste of a stringy peach, and all the silences of the country he grew up in. As a member of a Japanese farming community, his experiences are both familiar and new: he recalls spring picnic menus that included sushi and bento boxes, the impact of racist land-ownership laws on his family, and his inability to communicate with his non-English-speaking grandmother during the many long hours they worked the fields side by side. Masumoto is particularly adept at conveying the junction at which tradition and modernity meet, describing the difficulties of choosing how to sticker his fruit and of following it to market, or portraying a visit by ten food editors from national magazines who “found it hard to slow their stride” while touring the farm and even harder to select their own peaches to be delivered overnight to their offices across the country. Most enchanting are his brief essays on family members. “Scent of My Father,” which reports on Dad's tendency to smell of cut grass, mud, and sweat, pays moving homage to the ties of earth and blood.

Intense, sensuous, lyrical, shaped by the sensibility of a poet and the eye of a farmer.