Botany and Cooking Memories
During the holiday break from classes and work, I had the opportunity to read a fun little book I got from my sis-in-law. Botany, Ballet & Dinner from Scratch is penned by Leda Meredith, a ballerina-turned-botanist who works at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I wish I had known about her when I visited there earlier this year so we could have chatted about her lovely memoir. Inside the playful cover you’ll find short stand-alone chapters and at least one recipe attached to each. Leda talks of her childhood, adolescence and adulthood in the context of food, travel and relationships, among which she sprinkles some very handy gardening and botany tidbits. Her experience as an urban forager was right up my alley. She discusses the importance of proper plant identification in foraging situations and also gives a mini nomenclature lesson that even the complete gardening beginner can understand.
While I didn’t learn terribly much from this book since I’m already heavily immersed in horticulture and in cooking with ingredients grown in my own garden or other nearby source, I still recommend it for beginner and expert alike. For the reader just starting out in either gardening or eating locally (or, ideally both), Leda’s straightforward writing style is easy to understand and it’s not nearly the snooze that some other related books might be. For the reader that’s got an existing green thumb and well-worn apron, this book will make you smile and think about long-forgotten experiences that may have shaped who you are as a gardener and cook. It did for me.
I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet. Many of them are meat-heavy. But there are a few, such as dilly beans and raspberry cordial, I’ll be sure to try when their seasons come back around. Leda has a blog about being a locavore in NYC. I haven’t read through it much myself, but take a look here if you’d like.
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