“To Eat: A Country Life” by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd— From Garden to Table

to eat

Eck, Joe and Wayne Winterrowd. “To Eat: A Country Life”, Farrar, Straus and Giroux , 2013.

From Garden to Table

Amos Lassen

If you have never lived on a farm but find that kind of life interesting, you will adore this book. It celebrates the lives of the two authors, a couple who have been together for many years and it celebrates their unique garden. This is a beautiful look at farm-to–table living and at the romance between the authors.

In 1974 Eck and Winterrowd left Boston to move to southern Vermont and there they bought a 28 acre bit of nothing. The land was covered with trees, greenery grew wildly but there was a steam. Today, it is a different place—North Hill, seven beautifully cultivated acres that is an internationally famous garden. It is also open to the public in the spring and summer. It has been featured in print and photograph and the New York Times has done an extensive article on it. The two men were busy at work on the book when Winterrowd died in  2010 and this book now becomes part of his legacy.

I love that the book was written with a sense of humor and with some wonderful little stories and histories making this the kind of book that is meant for more than just one reading.

While this is the last book by the authors, it is my first time reading about them and now since I live in Boston, I plan to get to North Hill soon. Eck and Winterrowd shared a passion for planting, raising and preparing the food that they ate together and that is so evident here. Replete with drawings by Bobbi Angell and recipes by Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta, the book is pleasure from page one. The book is arranged so that we can one food per chapter and we feel the exuberance of country living.

The book has something for everyone—it is part cookbook, part gardening manual, part memoir and all delight.

 “For foodies as much as for gardeners, this savory collection of anecdotes about farming is a testament to the joy and reward of labor and achievement … Authors Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd describe how they spent decades raising various crops in southern Vermont. They offer tips on soil as well as recipes for preparing fresh-grown food. It is hard not to appreciate beets or salivate over illustrator Bobbi Angell’s descriptions of Winterrowd’s blueberry pie.” —Gary M. Kramer, Instinct Magazine

 “A pig named Morose, a bull called Hadrian, recipes for carrot cake and oxtail stew, the advantages of cold storage, and the appeal of cippolini onions. Such is the evidence of a life lived well and deliberately, a commitment Eck and his partner, Winterrowd, made early on in their 42-year personal and professional relationship. In this bittersweet memoir, Eck’s preface reveals that Winterrowd died before the book was completed; the afterword should come complete with hankies. In between are endearing and educational glimpses into their gardening practices and gustatory preferences, their peripatetic journeys and permanent joys . . . Readers will delight in this exuberant paean to the pleasures and benefits of growing one’s own food, elegiac homage to how Eck and Winterrowd celebrated the bounty such labors bestowed, and Eck’s reflections on daily changes and seasonal challenges at Vermont’s North Hill Farm. Eck and Winterrowd will inspire even the most reluctant gardeners to take steps to harvest a more rewarding life.” –Carol Haggas, Booklist.

The book is slim with only 194 pages yet it has 29 chapters “on veggies grown in their garden, from Asparagus and Apples to Tomatoes and Wild Herbs. Most chapters are brief, two or three pages. Of these, only eleven have recipes as such, although ten or so more describe what sound like delectable presentations one may or may not consider recipes”.

Bobbi Angell “has masterfully composed, exquisite pen-and-ink rendered drawings of the vegetable being celebrated, such as the slender rectangle portraying the leek, its mysterious tangle of roots, its sturdy yet slender stalk, its twisting ribbons of leaves (p.80). Angell’s rendition of the surface of oranges could make Durer envious, so well observed and rendered are these mini-moonscapes. Each drawing is a gem, a work of artistry and love”.

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