--Excerpted from Eating Wildly
Part memoir, part foraging guide, occasional cookbook, Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal is a delight. Eating Wildly received the 2015 MFK Fischer Book Award. Library Journal chose it as one of the Best Books of 2014. If you haven't yet read Ava Chin's delightful book - newly available in paperback -- you're in for a treat.
The book chronicles Chin's relationships with food and with her family. It follows her as she forages delicious edibles in the unlikeliest of places in New York City. I live in the middle of the rural Midwest, and I was pleasantly surprised to recognize the plants Chin mentioned; I realized that if I ended up in NYC, I might encounter a few familiar (green) friends.
I'm a sucker for non-cookbooks that include recipes. I like the idea that these are "tried and true" favorites that had to be included because the narrative insisted. Chin doesn't disappoint: Of the several recipes in Eating Wildly, the Blackberry-Buckwheat Pancakes and Wild Morel Linguini are especially worthy. Omnomnom...
One thing that could make the book even better would be photos or illustrations of the plants Chin finds. (I mean -- if you're going to pick and eat a novel sprig of something growing out of the ground, you want to be pretty darn sure you're noshing on the right thing.) To that end, Chin has posted a few of The Plants & Mushrooms of Eating Wildly on her blog. Though even more pictures would be welcome, Eating Wildly is more than a mere field guide.
Much of the book's charm is in its exploration of Chin's life. Her fractured relationship with her mother, her attempts to connect with her absentee father, her lessons in cuisine and culture from her grandparents, and her forays into the wilderness of adult relationships all add flavor to the book.
I found myself repeatedly rooting for Chin, whether she was hunting an elusive morsel or searching for her soulmate. When she throws a foraging Wild Foods Brunch, only to have someone question one of her ingredients, I'm pulling for her to be right -- and not just so her guests survive the event. When she tries again and again to forge a relationship with her flighty mother, I'm there, hoping that this time, she succeeds.
Full disclosure: I met Ava Chin when she came to a booksigning at the little independent bookstore here in Southwestern Michigan. She is friends with Kim Jorgensen Gane, who co-facilitates the #Write2TheEnd writer's workshops with me. Ava dubbed us "The Thelma and Louise of writing coaching." (I'm Louise. No doubt about it.) So -- yeah, I know her. And, yeah, I'd still recommend the book even if we'd never met. Check out the book for yourself. See if you agree with me...