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Book Report: 'Edible,' amplified

Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods
By Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian
Wiley, 2010, $29.95
80 recipes

Flip through the pages of “Edible,” and a fairly utopian picture of American food emerges. Land and sea are sustainably harvested, producers, chefs and growers look happy in their work and even the farm animals seem content.

But the book provides a real snapshot of 65 communities across the country and in Canada and Europe. They are identified by the independently run, regional food magazines that make up Edible Communities Inc., a Santa Fe, N.M., company founded in 2002 by co-authors Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian.


Topalian is the photographic journalist who spent the past six years shooting the images in “Edible,” while Ryder watched over the book’s evolution for almost three years. Although the book could have been a compilation from the magazines, about 75 percent of the material and 50 percent of the recipes are new.

The first section provides those colorful, beautiful images and profiles of local heroes: the Thacher family of Ojai, Calif., who bring us Pixie tangerines and Vaniglia Sanguigno blood oranges; Mary Forstbauer, a biodynamic farmer in Vancouver, B.C.; Tanya Cauthen of Belmont Butchery in Richmond (written by Washington food writer Alexandra Greeley); and the Seed Savers Exchange in the Iowa River Valley.

The cumulative effect of reading their stories is more powerful than following the discourse from today’s food elite. There’s good stuff going out there, and “Edible” can help you find it. Sources listed at the end of chapter as “People, places, things” offer further mentions of activists, dietitians, restaurateurs and vintners.

Recipes fill the book’s second section and are seasonally organized. Just about every one of them is contained on a single page, which is good. But the type size is pretty darn small. Luckily, the titles are inviting and large enough to see. We found the Pineapple Gazpacho was as bright and delicious as it sounds. Bay-Scented Chicken With Figs, Aspen Tri-Tip Roast and Persimmon Rum Cake help prove the point, don’t they?

The book adds depth to a growing Edible franchise that includes radio and podcasts from food luminaries such as Deborah Madison and Tom Philpott. Television can’t be far behind.

-- Bonnie Benwick

P.S. The Washington area has been Edible-less since the fall of 2009, when Edible Chesapeake ceased publication. Tracey Ryder says she hopes that a locally owned and operated Edible Baltimore, D.C. and/or Richmond magazine will start up by the end of 2010.

By The Food Section  |  June 2, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Books  | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, Books  
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