Bon Appetit writer Bilow chronicles her time on an organic farm, adding to her resume as a food writer and classically trained chef.
As the author drifted through freelance writing work that never paid enough, she set her intentions for change. An assignment to write about a Community Supported Agricultural operation sparked more than her interest, and she began to spend days laboring there. Layer in her muscular, handsome fellow farmer, Ian, and it seemed her quest for change was complete. Bilow spent more than a year living on the farm, eventually running the CSA and marketing operations. Her descriptions of mundane tasks and the hard work of farm living are sobering and well-wrought, punctuated by brilliant descriptions of savory farm-fresh meals. The author divides the book into five seasonal sections (she was at the farm during two springs), each followed by tantalizing recipes Bilow cooked for the farm crew or just Ian—e.g., mint and yogurt-marinated chicken, honey butter and blistered tomato gratin. The story flits from one meal to the next, since for Bilow, it all comes down to the food. “I understood that while sometimes farmers could cultivate a real sense of appreciation and adoration for a homemade meal, it was just as often eaten in a rush,” she writes. “I supposed…that was just one more difference between real farmers and myself. To my mind, the whole point of it all was the meal.” Aside from the food, the other main narrative thread is the author’s love affair with Ian. Bilow brings sensuality to every scene, with rich descriptions of food and farm life, from washing freshly laid eggs to rendering lard.
The book is not a page-turner, as Bilow offers readers a slow-cooked story, with tenderness and intermingled flavors enriched over time.