A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to read Ava Chin's new memoir, "Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal." I wish I'd had the time to post about it sooner, because I. loved. this. book.
Not just because I've had the pleasure of getting to know Ava online, and not just because I'm kind of hooked on memoirs right now. No, this book is a delight for a whole host of reasons.
Number one? Food. Oh, the food.
She tells the story of coming to terms with her childhood and her mother through the lens of food. But not just any food, foraged food. Each section of the book, each part of Ava's story about her estranged father and self-pitying mother, is paired with a recipe for the foods that recall the events. Foods made with her own foraged finds. While I cringed when she unearthed a big fat spider in the process of picking wild mushrooms, I couldn't help myself but wanting to run into the parks near my house and go searching for edibles.
I read this book right after clearing out my garden plot, and immediately regretted tossing all the "weeds." What if those were the perfect ingredients for Ava's grass pie?
This isn't just a book about food. It's a book about learning to accept the flaws in your life and yourself. Using the beautiful metaphor of wild plants, Ava walks us through a familiar urban wilderness, teaching us to learn to know things not just as they are at one moment, but in all their life stages.
I might not end up making a grass pie. I might not even end up cooking morels- although you can bet the farm I'd eat as many as I could find in a heartbeat. But there is one thing I'll definitely be cooking.
My back yard is home to an enormous mulberry tree. Ava's mulberry story is tied to her relationship with her grandmother, and in particular with the end of her grandmother's life. The grace and beauty and dignity of that woman sticks with me so strongly, that now I can't look at the tree behind my house without thinking of her. When the berries come, I'll be cooking from Ava's book, and contemplating the sweetness of life and love along with the berries, plucked from the wilds of my own back yard.