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The Real Dirt on Farmer John
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Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables
I Didn't Kill Anyone Up Here
Glitter & Grease
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Little Songs
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Raves & Reviews on Farmer John's Cookbook
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Growing for Market Review
by Lynn Byczynski

In the midst of summer's farming frenzy, it's easy to forget that the point of all this work is food. Thereís so much to do, we farmers barely have time to feed ourselves, let alone ponder the sacredness of the food plants we grow. We might even say farmers get jaded about food.

A new cookbook by John Peterson is the antidote to any indifference that may have crept onto your farm. Farmer Johnís Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables: Seasonal Recipes and Stories from a Community Supported Farm is a joyous celebration of food and community. It will make you want to cook, eat and enjoy your food. It may even make you rhapsodize to customers about the life forces in your vegetables.

Billed as a companion to the new film The Real Dirt on Farmer John (see news briefs on page 3), this cookbook is much deeper and ultimately more important. It provides recipes, of course Ė hundreds of them, created by the farmís cooks and by the CSA members who get their vegetables from Angelic Organicsí Community Supported Agriculture program. The recipes are wonderfully diverse Ė they are mostly easy to prepare and use common ingredients, but there are also "celebration" recipes that take more preparation. The thing that sets this cookbook apart from so many other produce cookbooks is that virtually all the recipes offer a new way of preparing the familiar: Baked Cucumbers in Basil Cream; Fried Herb Topping with Garlic and Cheese; Sauteed Radishes with Radish Greens or Arugula; Sweet Zucchini Crumble.

But there is so much more than recipes between the covers of this big, 360-page book. Like fresh herbs that dress up a main dish, small sidebars are sprinkled among the recipes. There are comments from the cooks, letters from CSA members, and quotes from Rudolph Steiner, the founder of Biodynamic farming, which Angelic Organics practices. There are excerpts from Petersonís weekly newsletters to shareholders. Thereís a quirky little feature called "Overheard" with anonymous quotes that are generally related to food and farming. ("A New Yorker: You donít look like a farmer. Farmers always look worn out.") There are essays by nutrition experts and even a few poems.

None of these are long and ponderous. They are just tidbits Ė clever little nuggets of ideas, opinions, and information that spice up the basic fare. Yet they layer upon themselves and eventually impart to the reader the flavor of an unusual and admirable farm.

The Introduction explains that Farmer Johnís Cookbook is:

  • Practical. It informs you about vegetables and how to work with them.
  • Poetic. It offers you myriad insights into the dance of farming at Angelic Organics.
  • Illuminating. It suggests hidden possibilities about the forces that lie within your food.

Those are the benefits to consumers. To fellow farmers, there are additional reasons to love this cookbook. The photographs Ė many, many photos both color and black-and-white Ė show Angelic Organics to be an interesting combination of mechanization and human power. There are all kinds of tractors, planters, harvesters, barrel washers, packing lines, and so on. But there are also all kinds of people pulling weeds, planting, washing. Mostly they are working hard but the photos also give a glimpse of the fun and camaraderie of farming with others. Itís inspiring to see those bins of beautiful kale and brussels sprouts, and uplifting to see young people talking and smiling while they work on their knees cutting mesclun.

This is such a good book, every market farmer should have one.


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