I have a lot of challenges in the kitchen, the primary one being motivation. Between the covers of a book, though, I am in heaven.

My primary reads are usually fiction or Catholic or…well, anything but food-related fare.

But the title of this one got me.

I have this fond memory of the last vacation I took with my grandmother. She wasn’t married to Poppa Dean yet (she would get married that October), and I wasn’t married to Prince Charming yet (wasn’t even engaged, though I was certain he was “the one”). We went to see her sister in the Adirondacks, in a part of upstate New York that leaves my grandma a little breathless and girlish. I tell you, in that New York air, she changed. (Or maybe I did. Or maybe we both did.)

This was my first trip to New York – I went several times with her in my girlhood – when I could help drive, and help drive I did (even though, at times, it terrified me, what with the panoramic views and the lack of guard rails). I also had more of a say in when we would stop – when I saw a charming sign for a winery, for example, or when there were road side stands for peaches.

The east side of Lake Erie, in Pennsylvania, is God’s country (so is upstate New York, in case you were wondering), especially in that mid-August window when the peaches are ripe. These are peaches that you can’t buy when you go in the grocery store. They’re peaches that you pull over on the side of the road to buy, lose two hours of good drive time to savor, and never forget for the goatee of juice they left on your face, your shirt, the seat of your pants.

So Parsons’s book caught my attention right off the bat – I don’t live in peach country, and I don’t buy them much at the store (the disappointment just isn’t worth it…they’re mealy and tasteless and hard little buggers every time I’ve tried). But the thought of searching for flavor…that was something I could get my hands around.

Oh yeah, and he used the word “farm.” Not just in the cutesy sense, either, but with a feeling of actually having been on a farm. (Different farms than the sort I’m familiar with, but farms all the same.)

And what followed was a literary delight for this non-foodie farm girl.

Said I (over and over) to husband, “Did you know {insert farm fact, nutrition fact, storing of fruits or vegetables fact}?”

He replied (with varying degrees of interest), “No.”

I made copies of some of the pages…and that still has me laughing at myself. Come ON!

This was an introduction to food writing of a sort I have only ever experienced with excerpts of Mouth Wide Open (which I’m now currently devouring). Here’s someone who doesn’t just care about writing up impossible recipes (which I will likely not understand anyway), but someone who goes out to the farm to find out how peaches are grown (and loads of other things too).

One review I read said that this book was “part treatise on modern agriculture.” Yeah, maybe it is. But I found it refreshing to hear someone talking about where our food comes from, acknowledging that the food we eat – the bounty we take so for granted in this country – comes from the hard work and labor of other people. My ag background has made me a little impatient with some of my non-aggie fellows. There’s a certain sense you get of the world when you realize the work it takes to keep things going. That’s general, and it doesn’t say much, but Parsons, in this book, does. He made me, cushioned as I am in a non-ag job, with a husband who no longer depends on farmers and ag markets for his income, stop and think for a while.

He also made me remember what I love about agriculture. He made me smile as I thought about all the pictures of vegetables I’ve taken in the last two years (that’s the planting-and-harvesting kind of “farming” we do at this point), and he made me wonder, yet again, just how much would be right with the world if more people had a patch of land to tinker on, build on, appreciate God’s goodness on.

A bonus…tips on how to select each of the fruits and vegetables he talks about, as well as “one simple dish” for each one and a couple of more complicated “you need more than a day of experience in the kitchen to try them” recipes for each too.