cover image To Boldly Grow: Finding Joy, Adventure, and Dinner in Your Own Backyard

To Boldly Grow: Finding Joy, Adventure, and Dinner in Your Own Backyard

Tamar Haspel. Putnam, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-41953-3

Journalist Haspel (The Dreaded Broccoli Cookbook), writer of the Washington Post column “Unearthed,” marches briskly down the well-trodden path of doing something for one year in this amusing work. When, in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, Haspel and her former commodity trader husband left Manhattan to live in a 900-square-foot “shack” on Cape Cod, they decided to go a step further and commit to eating one food a day that they had gathered “first-hand.” In a colloquial, curious tone reminiscent of the work of Mary Roach, Haspel recounts how this escalated from clamming to catching and smoking bluefish, to raising chickens (“gateway livestock”), to making their own salt by evaporating seawater. Haspel even got acquainted with guns to shoot deer for venison. Set pieces, such as a description of rigging a washing machine to serve as a chicken plucker, double as helpful hints (including tips for crafting logs to grow shiitakes) and self-deprecating anecdotes. There’s a refreshing lack of sugarcoating: Haspel notes that the idea that growing your own food saves money can be a delusion, and mourns the death-by-hawk of Phyllis, a white Araucana chicken named for her resemblance to Phyllis Diller. Despite the familiar setup, the bright prose and clever insight make this a pleasure to dig into. Agent: Jan Baumer and Steve Troha, Folio Literary. (Mar.)