Attention aspiring locavores: here’s the book for you! Learn to grow your own mushrooms, harvest olive oil, own a dairy cow, plant a garden—and then create impressive, yet practical, meals from your bounty.
Inspired by the James Beard-Award winning food blog, One Block Diet, comes The One-Block Feast: An Adventure in Food from Yard to Table by Margo True and the staff of Sunset magazine. The book chronicles the magazine staff’s efforts to eat solely from a one block radius, growing and making all their ingredients from scratch. They painstakingly report the results of their toils to bring the reader along for the ride—and hopefully inspire others to try a similar local diet at home.
This lifestyle guide provides it all: seasonal growing guides; advice gleaned from working with chickens, bees, and pineapple guava trees; recipes with full color photos; and backyard farming tales.
The One-Block Feast structure follows the seasons in Northern California, where Sunset Magazine is headquartered, and where their one block diet is harvested. Even readers living outside Northern Cali will find regional guides adapted to their growing season. The book differs from other locavore texts in its how-to structure. It’s more plan than story, containing detailed instructions for a wide range of homemade fare, including cheese and beer.
Each seasonal chapter in the book kicks off with a personal, flowing narrative by True that summarizes her team’s adventures in locavorism. “It had tasted wild and thorny and not completely drinkable,” she writes about their attempt at making Syrah in the fall. In the summer chapter, she writes about making olive oil, “It was grass green, flecked with bits of olive, and extremely fresh and bright.”
Garden guides follow each chapter narrative. Written from a cook’s perspective, these offer sample garden layouts detailing what was grown for the one block feast. Describing the popular edible flower, nasturtium, the book explains the leaves’ culinary allure: “When young and tender, they also have an appealing, dewy sweetness and a peppery flavor (as do the buds and flowers) that adds zip to salads.” Such inviting imagery inspires the cook as well as the gardener.
Next, each seasonal chapter contains project guides, or detailed instructions on making everything from your own vinegar to preparing garden snails as escargots. The well-rounded diversity of these projects will appeal to many, and the broad scope covers what is likely new territory for even the most devout homesteader. For example, readers will find instructions for making salt from sea water and crafting handmade labels for homebrewed ale or wine.
Finally, each chapter contains inviting recipes that make use of Sunset’s homegrown fare. In typical locavore fashion (eating only what grows locally), you won’t find chocolate, spices, or even baking soda in these recipes, which makes them extremely practical for home cooks to create in a pinch. In fact, some of the recipes offer awe-inspiring beauty and abundant flavor using only six ingredients, like these gorgeous Egg Clouds (Nuvolone), or even as few as two ingredients, like the Skillet-Roasted Edamame.
One-Block Feast makes sustainable eating approachable, meaningful, and delicious. This book will surely become a well-worn, dog-eared, oft-referenced staple in many locavore’s book collection.
“…On some level we knew how much each bite had cost us, and also given us, and that made us happy.” – Margo True, One-Block Feast
The One-Block Feast: An Adventure in Food from Yard to Table
by Margo True & the staff of Sunset magazine
Ten Speed Press, April 2011, $24.99, 272 pages