Book Review: This Organic Life

I just finished a book that may have changed the way I look at eating produce. The book, This Organic Life, 2001, (see link to right under “Good Reads”) is by Joan Dye Gussow, a woman who must be in her 80s now, and writes about her experiences growing all her own vegetables (and some fruit) in her suburban home in New York.I thoroughly enjoyed this book– Gussow’s writing style is easy to follow, honest, poignant & sometimes funny. Although I don’t plan to start growing all my own produce, I have always loved the idea of growing some (waiting on my 2 tomato plants & 1 jalapeno plant as we speak!). She gives great info on (organic) gardening techniques, and tasty recipes to use those ingredients you grow too.

But what I took most out of the book is the idea of eating locally (not a super new idea) and eating fruits & veggies in season (a very new idea to me). I honestly had never thought about this. Our American Consumerism stretches to even foods here as we (my generation) have grown up in the SUPERMarket era of being able to eat whatever, whenever, with very little restrictions due to something being “out of season.” This practice has negatively impacted our environment, local farmers, and even our own tastebuds! Unlike those dumb AM/PM minimart commercials, I think there can be “too much good stuff” (especially when it’s been bred to be not so good), because we become dulled to taste; we don’t savor things, knowing that we only have certain time of year to eat them.

Gussow’s greatest example of this is the tomato. Here’s an excerpt from her chapter called “Lessons from the Tomato:”
“The item accompanying iceberg lettuce in the standard winter salad is the sliced or sectioned orange golf ball deceptively called a tomato. Everyone over fifty knows that the tomato used to be a soft, juicy, sweet-sour fruit… Science has converted this succulent summer treat into a hard, orange, bland, starchy ball that can be sliced or sectioned and served “fresh” any time of year” (page 184).
Mmmm, sounds appetizing, doesn’t it? But seriously, we’ve all had tomatoes like that! And we’ve probably also had a delicious home-grown summertime tomato at least once! I for one, am looking forward to looking into trying to eat more locally and more seasonally!

Now go read this book! It’s awesome!



Filed under food, green living

4 responses to “Book Review: This Organic Life

  1. Linda Z

    Hi Nicole,

    So I’ve been sick, and yesterday I spent the better portion of the afternoon checking out the Skin Deep database. It was a big eye opener!! I was really amazed to see a lot of companies that actually say they’re healthy, but scored in the moderately hazardous range.

    Anyway, I was glad to see your spreadsheet and what you thought of some of the products. Have you tried any Tom’s of Maine or Burt’s Bees? They are pretty economical and most of their stuff scores pretty well.

    As far as the seasonal food goes… once I discipline myself to do it, I’m so glad I did! I’m not being very disciplined right now though!! I need to get back into the habit!! Sounds like a good book you’re reading! 🙂

  2. Sarah

    Hi Nicole,

    I am really trying to research what I need to start canning/jarring things so I can enjoy the flavors later in the season but not have to buy them out of season (i.e. flown in on jet fuel from Chile, when in season it comes from Cali abundanty). Obviously these wont be fresh, but think about how many recipes will call for tomatoes or tomato sauce? It would be great to pop a jar you canned yourself than a jar of tomato sauce canned or jarred by some company who surly is not using local tomatoes. (Or what ever produce it may be:) Freezing is good too, but I really want the satisfaction of knowing how to jar and can…I feel like we are one generation too late. Most grandmas know how to can, but hardly any of the mothers of people in our generation do anymore, and I don’t know any of my friends who can…do you? A big lost in just one generation of grocery store ready convenience. I think you need a pressure cooker or something…If you know, teach me! If I find out, I’ll let you know…I have about 10 fresh, local organic cucumbers I keep getting from CSA and I want to jar pickles!!!

  3. nicole viola

    I’m with you, Sarah- I totally want to learn to can stuff. When I move back we can experiment together. But my mom does know how to make jam at least! When I was little we used to pick berries up in Klamath and make tons of blackberry jam- yum! I’ll have to ask her about it. I’ll also ask my friend whose parents are farmers/gardeners.

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