by Bruce Beck
This is another one of those coffee-table books that\’s been sitting around my house forever. It\’s too awkward to read while nursing the baby (my prime reading time these days) so I\’ve only been getting to it in snatches here and there. You\’d think that a book about foodstuffs isn\’t that interesting, but Produce was quite a good read, considering.
It is a large, heavy book full of stunning photographs by Andrew Unagst, all featuring vegetables, fruits and greens. Each item gets a good description, including different varieties, their origins and curious things about their culinary history, what foods they pair well with or how they are often prepared, how to choose the best ones from the market, how to keep them fresh at home, and at what season they are most readily available. It\’s got every single produce item you could think of, from plain old bananas and apples to arugula, watercress and a huge assortment of herbs, to unfamiliar exotics like cherimoya or starfruit. I even learned quite a few things about produce, such as that cantaloupe is (supposedly) good eaten sprinkled with salt and pepper, lettuce can be put into soup (!), melons are often carved into decorative bowls (look at this amazing watermelon turtle), and the Greeks and Romans use to wear parsley garlands at parties, because they believed it would keep them from getting drunk. There are charming, whimsical little line drawings illustrating each page, as well. And a sprinkling of humor to boot.
One thing I didn\’t understand was why most of the herbs were combined into a crowded two-page spread, while parsley, basil and watercress each got their own spot. Also, I couldn\’t find olives. I looked in the index, thinking maybe I\’d missed it somehow, as a few of the items were on a page with relatives (plantains with bananas, for example). Nope, no olives. The book does show its age a little, as the author makes comments on some exotic produce items being almost completely unavailable, whereas I\’ve seen them frequently in the supermarket. Anyhow, if you\’re interested in the history of produce, or want a few hints on how to use certain veggie items, or just like to drool over wonderful photographs, this is a pretty good book!
rating: 4/5 …….. 213 pages, 1984
I thought everyone put salt and pepper on cantaloupe. That watermelon turtle is adorable!
Sounds like a pretty book. I'd probably just browse through it, looking at the photos.I eat my cantaloupe plain.
Cantaloupe is so delicious it never even crossed my mind before to add anything to it.