Book Reviews

Review of Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide

Feeding Orchids to the Slugs: Tales from a Zen Kitchen

 

by Florencia Clifford
Vala Publishing Co-operative, 2012
224 pages
ISBN: 1908363037

Review by Becca J.R. Lachman

As a junior in college, I studied for a year in West Yorkshire, England. Before I left, more than one American warned me about the sad state of British food. I proved them wrong by gaining twenty pounds.

It turned out I adored high teas and pub food, but also the takeout curries so new to my taste buds. Every experience during that year--including eating-- was an exercise in accepting and celebrating difference. From moment to moment, I had the opportunity to see the world anew.

Years later, I would come to know this practice as mindfulness, and its popularity today is no accident. Many of us are beginning to take deliberate vacations from phones and computers, and even the act of reading a physical book without any other distractions or multi-tasking can feel like a tiny self-revolution. Feeding Orchids to the Slugs: Tales from a Zen Kitchen by Florencia Clifford reminds us that even the simplest of acts can inspire healing and spiritual training.

Clifford grew up in Córdoba, Argentina but ends up in York, England after marriage. Her prose is a vibrant tour guide. Mouth-watering in itself, it reveals her dedication to cooking with community in mind:

The following night I made an aubergine dish with a parsley and tahini sauce, olive oil dripping off the serving plates: rich Moorish flavours. I like to alternate the simple with the opulent in the kitchen; in this way, people learn to taste the way other cultures taste, celebrating both abundance and frugality through shared meals. I made rich chocolate brownies with sea salt and rose petals; the petals sank into the batter as the brownies cooked, transferring their scent into the mixture.

As she goes on to describe her Zen teachers and the diverse meals she prepares for a Buddhist retreat center in Wales, Clifford also maps out her daily bouts of “missing home from home.” Readers who grew up in another country or region, or who simply pine for destinations or people, can relate to Clifford when she describes how “living with constant yearning left me feeling split; two personas inhabiting different worlds, swapping longings.”

Like a meal eaten mindfully, I chose to read this book over a longer period, one section at a time, mostly because I felt its presentation and overall themes kept inviting me to do so. Striking drawings by Michaela Meadow open every chapter, and as dishes and descriptions of their preparation help inspire narratives, the recipes themselves usually make an appearance at a chapter’s end.

The book’s title refers to a tradition Clifford starts when she takes a daily portion of food and flowers to the garden statue of Tara as an offering or puja. Noticing the beauty of the creatures that devour these offerings, she reflects how “Slowly I have learned to love that which is difficult to love, both in myself and in others.” Like Zen teachers describing the same mantras in unique ways, each chapter of Florencia Clifford’s book comes back to this lesson.