Edges of Bounty: Adventures in the Edible Valley

William Emery, Author, Scott Squire, Photographer Heyday Books $24.95 (194p) ISBN 978-1-59714-108-6
Upon his first taste of an exotic melon (""the flavor was a cathedral and liqueur"") from a small farm in California's Great Central Valley, writer Emery came to an epiphany: ""we do not eat real food."" Inspired, he set out with documentary photographer Squire to uncover the hidden agricultural life of the Great Central (the combined Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys), including biodynamic farmers, beekeepers, self-described ""bubbas"" and other characters keeping tradition and hard work alive in the face of encroaching factory farming and ever-rising demand for convenience and low prices. Stories of an abandoned roadside kiwi stand, a farmer's devotion to her goats and Portugese festas pack plenty of drama; unfortunately, Emery's text is tragically overwritten and saddled with a tiresome, know-it-all sense of false modesty: ""My purpose in these travels is not, however, to be content. I'm looking for an aggregate of knowledge that I might carry with me into another life."" Squire's crisp, brilliant photos do a far better job providing a sense of place and time, with insider views of community dinners, life on the farm and profile subjects. Those interested in California farming folklore, ""slow food"" and similar agricultural movements will find this handsome book illuminating, if overwrought. 90 color photos.
Reviewed on: 11/03/2008
Release date: 11/01/2008
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