Cookbook by septuagenarian reads like novel
By Margaret Barno
Galveston Daily News - December 12, 2010
Helen Nearing set out to write a unique cookbook in 1980, like one never written before.
After logging in hundreds of hours researching cookbooks cataloged in the main libraries in Boston, Philadelphia and New York, she decided she had all she needed to begin her task.
Born in 1904, she married Scott Nearing, a former college professor and lecturer. They were agrarian theorists and reformers.
Forced out of academia for his pacifist beliefs, the couple moved to Vermont in the heart of the Depression, where they practiced organic farming, living off the land.
In 1952, their move to the coast of Maine would foster what became the “Back to the Land” and “Simple Living” movements of the 1960s to present day.
Their farm, Forest Farm, became The Good Life Center, which carries on this couple’s vision.
The cookbook is like none other I’ve ever read. But then, I don’t know of many persons who read a cookbook from the first to last page, as if reading a novel.
I’ve never referenced a recipe book in which the first recipe began on page 88.
All the ones I’ve ever used have been divided by subject: appetizers, vegetables, salads, and, oh don’t forget, desserts. I don’t recall ever laughing so much reading one either.
“Simple Food for the Good Life” is organized very differently. The first section, 87 pages in length, is devoted to Helen Nearing’s philosophy of food and eating it.
Interspersed with quotations from famous persons and writings, “Ovid” being the oldest, circa 10 B.C.E., George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau of “Walden” fame to mention a few.
The book is written according to meals eaten during the day, beginning with breakfast. Now that’s an easy way to find something to prepare.
She was a strict vegetarian — and her recipes reflect that fact. They are not fancy eating but made from foods and spices at hand.
Even if you're not vegetarian, the recipes can be foods to which you can add meat or fish, even though she wouldn’t advocate doing so.
Things you never will forget after reading her book or this review — food is more nutritious the closer it is to being picked or harvested.
Raw is better than cooked. Cooking takes away valuable nutrients. Eating raw makes your teeth work and chewing helps in the start of the digestive system.
Eat slowly, take time to enjoy those with whom you’re eating. You’ll eat less, and your body will function better. Exercise, walk and enjoy life.
She must have done something right. She lived to be 91 years old, her husband, 100.
Margaret Barno, a retired social worker, lives in Pflugerville.
Read the original review in the Galveston Daily News.
Helen Nearing's Random Acts of Cooking
A review posted by Robert MacDonald on Cultures & Culinaria
March 12, 2005
Fifty years before the phrase "simple living" became fashionable, Helen and Scott Nearing were living their celebrated "Good Life" on homesteads first in Vermont, then in Maine. All the way to their ninth decades, the Nearings grew their own food, built their own buildings, and fought an eloquent combat against the silliness of America's infatuation with consumer goods and refined foods. They also wrote or co-wrote more than thirty books, many of which are now being brought back into print by the Good Life Center and Chelsea Green.
Simple Food for the Good Life is a jovial collection of "quips, quotes, and one-of-a-kind recipes meant to amuse and intrigue all of those who find themselves in the kitchen, willingly or otherwise." Recipes such as Horse Chow, Scott's Emulsion, Crusty Carrot Croakers, Raw Beet Borscht, Creamy Blueberry Soup, and Super Salad for a Crowd should improve the mood as well as whet the appetite of any guest. Here is an antidote for the whole foods enthusiast who is "fed up" with the anxieties and drudgeries of preparing fancy meals with stylish, expensive, hard-to-find ingredients. This celebration of salads, leftovers, raw foods, and homegrown fruits and vegetables takes the straightest imaginable route from their stem or vine to your table.
"The funniest, crankiest, most ambivalent cookbook you'll ever read," said Food & Wine magazine. "This is more than a mere cookbook," said Health Science magazine: "It belongs to the category of classics, destined to be remembered through the ages."
Helen Nearing left city life with her husband, Scott nearly sixty years ago to move first to Vermont and then to their farm in Harborside, Maine. The Nearings' food and living philosophies have provided the guidelines for many who seek a simpler way of life. Among Helen Nearing's numerous books is Loving and Leaving the Good Life, a memoir of her fifty-year marriage to Scott Nearing and the story of Scott's deliberate death at the age of one hundred. Helen and Scott Nearing's final homestead in Harborside, Maine, has been established in perpetuity as an educational progam under the name of The Good Life Center.