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Summer’s abundance

Wren Wertin

mom. She also helped us make the distinction between

cookbooks that were simply full of good recipes and

cookbooks that offered full color photos, illustrating

all the yummy treats that could come out of our

kitchen. You might find a couple of recipes in the

former, but they smack of pure functionality. The

latter invites the peruser on a journey, inspiring the

culinary imagination at every turn of the page.

I picked up “Local Flavor: Cooking and Eating from

America’s Farmers’ Markets” by Deborah Madison last

month, ostensibly for my mother, though she’s yet to

receive it from me. Instead, I read it with my coffee

Saturday mornings in preparation of the market to

come. Part travel guide, part cookbook, it’s filled

with photos, recipes, tall tales and small details

reminiscent of the collaborative efforts of Jeffrey

Alford and Naomi Duguid (“Flatbreads and Flavors,”

“Seductions of Rice”).

Arranged by seasons, not courses, the seasons dictate

the book as they do the market. Beginning with greens,

the chapters run through ingredients with a sense of

jubilation that seems to say, “Look what we have

to look forward to.”

Madison’s philosophy is present throughout the book:

farmers’ markets offer more than food.

“The market is also about culture, regionalism and having a healthy

sense of pride in one’s work and one’s land. It’s also

about joy, and it depends on – and creates – healthy

rural communities,” (p.xiii).

The photos are as often of the raw vegetables as they

are the finished recipes, adding to the excitement of

the ingredient. The recipes range from the more

involved (chard and cilantro soup with noodle nests,

roast chicken with herbs under the skin) to the

explicitly simple (melon and cucumber agua fresca,

sauteed gypsy peppers). Madison is the author of four

other cookbooks showcasing vegetables. Though not a

strictly vegetarian cookbook, vegetables are obviously

the stars of the whole shebang:

“All the beets come with a luxurious crown of greens

attached, which give you an entire second vegetable,”

(p. 42). “Taking the feast-or-famine approach, we live

on tomato sandwiches from the moment tomatoes appear

in the market to the killing frost. Then none until

next year,” (p.176).

The book encourages the reader to fully experience the

farmers’ market and not hold back. With travel tales

of various markets in the United States liberally

sprinkled in between recipes, she has advice for most

any market-related dilemma:

“A large Italian platter has long provided the answer.

The question is: How can I use everything I see at the

market? Platter salads are a blessing for those of us

who can’t make up our minds about what to focus on

when faced with abundance,” (p.124).

Her advice on making a platter salad is to wander

through the market and buy anything that looks good,

dress cooked vegetables while they’re still warm and

to cook anything needing to be cooked as close to

serving time as possible so they keep their colors and

aromas. “Other than that, you’re on your own,

improvising madly and always assured of success.”

Her techniques are straightforward, with an occasional

variation on standards, such as stacking roasted bell

peppers on top of each other to hasten along the

steaming and peeling process. The only problem with

some of the recipes is the scarcity of particular

ingredients here in the mountains. I’ve been unable to

find nettle, though her recipe for nettle soup sounds

delicious. “You know you’re doing the right thing when

you dip your spoon into a bowl of soup that’s as green

as Ireland,” (p.9). Though we have a few mushroom

types, the more exotic ones have been kept under wraps

when I’ve wandered around. Which is too bad, because

the sauteed spinach leaves with hedgehog mushrooms

sounds good, too.

Despite these occasionally frustrating events, “Local

Flavors” has helped open up the farmers’ market to me.

Its gift to the reader is making the whole experience

become exciting and fresh. Even if you didn’t make a

single recipe (though I don’t recommend missing out on

the corn and squash simmered in coconut milk with Thai

basil), it’s a worthy investment for the stories

alone.

“Local Flavors,” a hardback, full-color book, retails

at $39.95. It’s available through local bookstores

Verbatim Booksellers in Lionshead or The Bookworm of

Edwards.


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