July 11, 2014

Book Review: Ava Chin's Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal

I'm sure you're all familiar with my fondness for a good foodie memoir. I enjoyed My Homemade Life and My Berlin Kitchen and Mastering the Art of French Eating. Eating Wildly isn't exactly the same sort of foodie memoir for me (pretty sure the odds of me actually making any of the recipes in this book are pretty much zero), but I still enjoyed Ava's story, and learning about how to forage.

As Eating Wildly begins, Ava Chin's beloved grandmother is dying. They were quite close; her mother's parents had helped raise Chin after her father walked out on the family. Trying to make sense of life without her grandmother, Chin muses on her childhood, her complicated relationship with her uptight mother, her memories of her grandfather and her own string of failed romantic relationships.

Chin's stories of her grandparents and the Chinese culture they passed on are touching and funny. Many readers will relate to her romantic setbacks and may identify with Chin's frustration with the omnipresent string of boyfriends in her mother's life.

Permeating all of these reminiscences are a love of eating and a realization that the cyclical nature of food is echoed in many areas of her life. Remembering hunting for obscure ingredients like cloud ear (an edible jelly fungus) in Chinese grocery stores with her grandfather; Chin begins to search through backyards and parks in the New York City area for edible items like mustard garlic, wild honey and mushrooms. She finds comfort in the rhythm of the seasons and the ebb and flow of plants' growth. Foraging through weeds and grass for edible treasures brings her new friends, earns her a New York Times blog column and helps her search for the beauty in her own complicated memories.

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal includes suggestions to help the novice forager: tips on drying herbs such as motherwort, ways to clean and serve wood sorrel and recipes for dishes like Wild Morel Linguine and Field Garlic and Hummus. A collection of touching memories and delicious recipes, Eating Wildly will likely please memoir readers, locavores and cooks alike.

What's your favorite foodie memoir?

I originally wrote most of this review for Shelf Awareness. And this post contains some Amazon affiliate links, thanks for supporting Quirky Bookworm.