It’s finally summer. The snowy, cold, and gray days of winter are far behind now—at least for a little while—and long days of sunshine and blue skies are here to take their place. Along with this relief of warm weather comes the unstoppable yearning to be outside, juxtaposed with the craziness of life that seems to keep you prisoner inside. But we’re here to remind you to slow down and take time for yourself this summer, and we have the best book suggestions to help you do just that—while also enjoying the great outdoors!
Ferments, Desserts, Main Dishes, and More from Your Neighborhood and Beyond
A Culinary Institute of America degree armed Sara Bir with cooking expertise, but it’s her clever writing and inquisitive, experimental mind that make The Fruit Forager’s Companion so exciting. This hybrid cookbook/plant guide/DIY manual entertains as much as it informs.
Bir eloquently discusses why foraging is a satisfyingly sustainable, meditative way of collecting food, and of reconnecting to neighbors and to the natural environment. She provides reassuring information for novice and experienced cooks alike, dispensing advice on foraging etiquette (Don’t be a “scrumper”—someone who steals apples from orchards) and thoroughly breaking down methods of harvesting, storage, and preservation, from canning to fermentation.
Forty-one chapters on fruit species are packed with essays, photographs, recipes, and ideas for kitchen experimentation. There are also all-important tips on correctly identifying edible fruits and their poisonous look-alikes. While the book provides ample information on common fruits, the passages about unusual fruits, like sumac and loquats, are invaluable. Bir is well-versed in food history and foodways, leading to intriguing discussions of old-fashioned preservation methods and charming recipe ideas from “wild cherry bounce” to pontack, which is a sort of elderberry Worcestershire sauce.
This compendium delivers a wealth of Bir’s sassy opinions and and effervescent prose. Whether she is expounding on the importance of lifelong exploration, the dangers of monoculture agribusiness, or describing ground cherries (“I delight in their lacy little hulls, the berries like golden pearls in a filigree setting”) and rose hips (“If rose hips were women, the ones you’d want would look like R. Crumb drew them”), her writing exudes personality, wit, and intelligence.
Bir is a learned, inventive guide whose sly humor and playful voice will win many over to become dedicated fruit scroungers and recipe explorers. Perusing this book will have you playing around with your food in no time, whether it’s mahonia or maypops, mayhaws or pawpaws.
RACHEL JAGARESKI (April 27, 2018)
17 Primitive Projects Inspired by the Seasons
In Pure & Simple, wool artist Maggie Bonanomi turns her rustic-chic design eye to easy projects that can be done at home without special equipment or skills.
The book’s seventeen projects reflect the natural world, with items like birds, acorns, trees, and leaves as their subjects. They are small and portable, easy to work on without creating a mess, and designed to deliver an appealing finished project without weeks of labor. Pin keeps, cell phone cases, soft sculptures, and appliquéd blocks that can be joined together to form larger items are included in the mix.
All projects are handcrafted needlework, using either appliqué work or the stitching of pieces together to form three-dimensional items. None requires a sewing machine, and all are simple enough for even inexperienced crafters to tackle. The projects are worked in wool, which, as the book points out, doesn’t unravel, allowing crafters to get a clean edge without turning under.
Complete, easy-to-follow instructions are given for every project, along with clearly marked patterns. Pattern pieces are appropriately scaled to yield items as shown but could easily be rescaled for a larger or smaller finished item.
Novice crafters will find illustrated instructions for using stitches—along with buttons and other items—as finishing-touch design elements. Advice on aging ribbon to get an heirloom look is also helpful. All wool used in the projects comes from a supplier who specializes in hand-dyed fabric, and source information for ordering is given, along with an extremely useful chart that lists the maker’s names for colors next to familiar generic names.
There are photographs of every project, and additional photographs showing them in use as home decor. In addition to giving a sense of the finished size of each project, the photographs convey the warm, firelit glow of rustic-chic style.
Well conceived and clearly written, Maggie Bonanomi’s Pure & Simple is a sure to entice and inspire a broad range of needle crafters.
SUSAN WAGGONER (April 27, 2018)
Explore the Pacific Northwest Coast like a Local
If you’re looking for a guide to all things Pacific Northwest that’s just about perfect, this is it.
Author Nancy Blakey offers a wealth of information, from a description of the exquisite “sound of silence” at the Hoh Rain Forest’s One Square Inch of Silence to all you’ve ever wanted to know (and more) about salmon, crabs, and clams and how to catch, clean, and cook them.
Though she lived with her family on Bainbridge Island, Blakey’s busy life kept her time outdoors limited to walking her dog. One day, she was startled to realize that she was missing out on all the beauty and adventure that surrounded her.
The result was this book, filled with awe-inspiring photographs; useful and fun illustrations; maps and directions that highlight what you’ll most want to experience; suggestions on where to eat, and even what to order when you get there; fun projects to do with children; sea-inspired arts and crafts; scrumptious recipes; rules and regulations to be aware of; lists of all you’ll need for the activities you choose; and warnings to keep you safe and healthy as you enjoy your trip. She’s even included the pronunciations of some unusual place-names, making it easier for you to sound like a local.
The book is divided by the seasons, making it easy to plan trips all year long; you’ll know what’s happening, what’s open and what’s not, and what you can expect from the weather no matter when you want to travel.
With Blakey as your guide, you’ll miss nothing; in fact, you’re likely to come away knowing more than the locals about the spectacular Pacific Northwest.
KRISTINE MORRIS (April 27, 2018)
The Grower’s Guide to Creating a Buzz
Everywhere we turn, we are called to action. Keep turning, keep acting.
In this case, get your hands dirty. Plant something honeybee friendly to help these buzzing benefactors continue to pollinate 30 percent of the food we eat. The bees are in trouble for a myriad of reasons: loss of habitat, agrichemicals, climate change, bacterial diseases, fungi, and parasites like the armor-piercing, blood-sucking varroa mite, their single greatest threat. Even the highly bred flowering plants that we’ve grown to favor conspire against honeybees because they very often have inaccessible pollen and nectar sources or are downright sterile. So, in most cases, planting the original wild varieties is best, including many that may not be native to your region.
Since 2007, Sarah Wyndham Lewis has been tweaking her own garden in the bee yard of the beekeeping business she runs with her husband in Suffolk, England, studying the habits and preferences of the hives they support. Her Planting for Honeybees is a no-nonsense, beautiful guide to the types of plants you can grow on windowsills, patios, gardens large and small, and even lawns (honeybees love dandelions, don’t you know?).
MATT SUTHERLAND (February 27, 2018)
Inspired Recipes for Cooking around the Fire and under the Stars
The important message underpinning Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson’s otherwise playful The Campout Cookbook is tucked at the end: “On a small scale, we think the best thing you can do for the environment is to bring your friends outside.” The authors’ enthusiasm for feasting around a well-made campfire shines in their detailed instructions for assembling the right cooking gear, recipes, and unplugged entertainments.
The principal focus is on car camping, as most plans and recipes involve cast-iron cookware, a well-stocked camp kitchen, and one or two coolers. This really expands campfire meals from the standard crowd pleasers, though multiple variations of gorp, bug juice, and an outstandingly refined recipe for s’mores with homemade marshmallows are still there. Most of the recipes involve home prep of ingredients, and there are wonderful multicourse menu ideas, from an Italian dinner to an elaborate Two-Skillet Sunrise breakfast bonanza.
Whimsical color illustrations add extra visual punch to the zippy magazine-style layout. The cookbook is punctuated with flow charts, matrices, and insertions of helpful camping advice, including ninety-nine ways to use a Thermos, skinny-dipping tips, how to spot common poisonous plants, and a primer on constellations.
The recipes are still the stars of this book, however. There are special chapters on breakfasts, trail snacks for everyone from kids to dogs, some inventive sides and salads (Garlicky Grilled Artichokes! Foil Packets of Apricots, Honey, Rosemary, and Elderflower Liqueur!), desserts, and “Fortifications.” The latter covers essential campfire party libations from cold to hot, including a refreshing Cucumber-Mint Cooler, numerous flavors of jelly shots, and tepache, the lightly fermented pineapple drink from Mexico.
How delightful it would be to cook your way through these pages, feasting your eyes on mountain vistas while your belly savors homemade salmon jerky and a steaming mug of Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate (“will give you a head start on your winter coat”). Mouthwatering recipes aside, Hanel and Stevenson write with flair and creativity, and their prose translates into action plans for some really fantastic outdoor sleepover parties.
RACHEL JAGARESKI (April 27, 2018)