Although set in the French Countryside, Amanda Hesser’s book The Cook and the Gardener holds many lessons and much encouragement for Americans seeking to tie their living more closely to the land. Over the year she served as a cook in a chateau in Burgundy, Hesser developed a friendship with the chateau’s gardener and documented the garden and its impact on her cooking throughout the months. I enjoyed the descriptions of what was happening on the land during each month and also the interesting descriptions of heirloom foods and how to cook them. In each section, Hesser covers one month, with additional chapters devoted to the seasons in general, and includes many recipes and shorter essays on particular foods and how to select and prepare them. The recipes are adapted for American cooks, and Hesser notes, where possible, how to find and select the foods she mentions from American sources.
The book’s emphasis on cooking with fresh in season foods, preserving for the colder months, and adapting the kitchen to the rhythyms of the seasons makes this a great read for those who would like to incorporate more local seasonal foods into their diets, but also invites the reader to consider the passing of seasons in our own backyard gardens and homes.
It is difficult to say if this book is a cookbook that also includes interesting reading, or if it is a memoir/treatise that also includes recipes. Either way I think you’d find something to interest you and I’d recommend it.
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