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Local Flavors:
Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets
cookbook reviewslocal flavors
Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets
by Deborah Madison
List Price: $39.95
Price with $27.97
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Reviewed by Mari Coyne

Click Here to Buy It On Line!

April 2003
Deborah Madison's new book, Local Flavors, is as densely packed as a CSA produce box with everything from local nuts - Wisconsin Hickory and California Green Pistachio's - to foraged mushrooms, Charentais melons and huckleberries. Madison celebrates the regional diversity available at farmer's markets across the country and makes a strong case for why corporately grown food and long-haul distributors no longer need control our food choice or access to variety.

Interspersed throughout the book are essays on regional specialties, farming and the real essence of agriculture - a connection to the land. As author and gentleman farmer Wendell Berry so aptly stated, "Eating is an agricultural act." Madison makes agriculture come alive for her readers by taking them to the fields. She introduces them to how varieties of items are grown - Belgium endive and heirloom peaches- the art of harvesting and the costs of weather and then she brings it all to the table.

Local Flavors can be summed up in one word - diversity. Madison's passionate curiosity is unfailing. She talks with everyone from Kent Whealy of the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa who save, catalog and sell heirloom seeds, to Eliot Coleman, known for his extensive winter farming in Maine. She's not cashing in on the latest food trend either. Rather, she's taking us to an overdue revival. As one of the farmers, Richard McCarthy of New Orleans says, "For us, food says what's best about our region, and that we have a food culture worth preserving. There's a regional pride here and everywhere that makes one place different from another."

The book layout is by botanical family and regional seasons, not by menu. It's an effective way to mingle like-products with a variety of preparations. Local Flavors isn't a thick glossy designed to romanticize farm life but, like a farm report, it puts the broader farming culture into context. Standing in a field and watching a summer storm wipe out a crop is a strong lesson in economics. Talking with heritage peach farmer Mas Masumoto at his California market (author of Epitaph for a Peach) you can sample a succulent peach and debate commercial vs. quality production.

The recipes reflect the vast variety available in regional markets and redefines product uniformity in Madison's terms; uniformity lies in the products extraordinary taste, not in its shape or size. Above the recipes, she weaves handling suggestions for less familiar products with broader ideas to launch cooks in other prep directions (with the added bonus of knowing where you might land).

The resources in the back of the book are a bit sparse but, at the same time, this book isn't about hand-holding. Madison encourages her readers to make their own connections and discoveries in their local communities. Ultimately, this bringing together is what getting back to the land is all about.

To find the farmers' markets nearest you, look at The National Directory of Farmers' Markets, a USDA publication, and get out there.

Written By: Mari Coyne
Mari Coyne wanders the culinary alleys and fields looking for curious people and stuff to photograph and write about. After a nearly 5 year run, she sold her interest in Three Tarts Bakery, to pursue her original interests in journalism, agriculture, documentary photography, culinary history and FBI Most Wanted posters. She's single, cute (occasionally, but rarely, cranky), willing to move and refuses to work retail again. Ever.

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