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Behind Their Screens: What Teens Are Facing (and Adults are Missing)

Emily Weinstein and Carrie James. MIT, $27.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-262-04735-7

Weinstein and James (Disconnected), researchers who have spent a decade studying teens’ digital lives at Harvard’s Project Zero, reveal the gaps between adults’ assumptions and what teens are actually up to in this fascinating deep dive into online behavior. The reality of “growing up digital,” they argue, is vastly different from the alarmist headlines; while there are apps “designed to hijack focus,” for instance, it’s a “mistake” to view being glued to one’s screen “as evidence that teens don’t care about connection.” Group chats, meanwhile, haven’t eroded “the age-old qualities that make or break friendships,” and sexting can be “consensual and wanted by both parties” or “pressured or even actively coerced,” which is important for parents to grasp so the issue is met with more understanding than just the reflexive instruction to not do it. The authors round things out with a call for “digital agency,” which can be established by “creating space for young people to explore true tensions and dilemmas” in classrooms and at home. The authors’ research is impressive, and the “Teens Want Adults to Know” sections at the end of each chapter add some nice perspective. Parents and educators losing sleep over what’s happening online would do well to give this a look. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Blooms and Dreams: Cultivating Wellness, Generosity, and a Connection to the Land

Misha Gillingham. Gibbs Smith, $35 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4236-6020-0

Wildluxe blogger Gillingham debuts with a lushly illustrated tour of the vibrant gardens and livestock pastures on her farm. The author recounts how she became disillusioned with the transient rewards of her lifestyle as a luxury travel writer and found purpose after relocating her family from Los Angeles to Bainbridge Island, Wash., and becoming a hobbyist farmer. Alongside photos of Gillingham and her daughters tending to vibrant gardens of peonies and dahlias, she describes the intensive research she undertook to learn how to maintain a farm and the bumps she hit along the way, including a middle-of-the-night hunt for escaped sheep. The author outlines her garden design process, which balances such practical concerns as which plants grow best together with aesthetic ones about how garden beds will appear in photos. Because the payoff from gardening sometimes arrives years after planting, it cultivates resilience and patience, the author contends, remarking that the activity led her to value “long-term health and wellness over short-term fun and instant gratification.” There’s some advice sprinkled throughout on how readers might follow Gillingham’s lead, but the real appeal lies in the gorgeous visuals that offer a peek into her lush and gorgeous estate. Cottagecore enthusiasts will page through this with sheer delight. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Boards and Spreads: Shareable, Simple Arrangements for Every Meal

Yasmin Fahr. Clarkson Potter, $24 (192p) ISBN 978-0-593-23624-6

“The whole idea of this book is to make cooking (and serving) easy,” promises food writer Fahr (Keeping It Simple) in this fun, laid-back approach to entertaining. She begins with board basics, providing helpful tips—when choosing wooden boards, she recommends maple and walnut since they are less water-absorbent—and cleaning instructions (a deep clean with a halved lemon and salt can address stain and odor issues). Next come the recipes, the more elaborate of which require readers to prepare components in advance: the taco board, for instance, calls for lemony herbs and onions and charred corn salad in addition to preparing the chicken and shrimp taco fillings for immediate serving. Other boards come together in a snap, such as the no-cook tartines board, which only requires readers to toast the bread and top with fillings like tomato, labneh, prosciutto, ricotta, and honey. Throughout, Fahr encourages readers to mix and match different components for different boards, offering plenty of variation suggestions (for the pancakes board, readers can swap out the water for Campari for boozy pancakes). Despite the array of options, some may be disappointed to find dessert boards conspicuously missing. Still, home cooks searching for a casual way to spice up their parties won’t need to look any further. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Turkey and the Wolf: Flavor Trippin’ in New Orleans

Mason Hereford, with JJ Goode. Ten Speed, $30 (252p) ISBN 978-1-9848-5899-3

Southern food gets a kick in the pants in this exuberant and irreverent debut, a collection of high/low recipes from Hereford, whose buzzy New Orleans restaurant gives the book its title. Sandwiches and other things eaten with hands are the stars of the show, and gluttony-sating ones at that: bread is frequently coated with “soft-ass” butter on both sides and then toasted, and mayonnaise—specifically, Duke’s brand, a tattoo of which adorns the author’s body—is wantonly slathered on everything from an Italian-style hero (along with 12 ounces of soppressata and a pound and a half of mortadella to feed six) to a spicy chicken sandwich, and is the foundation of a number of sauces. Hereford’s no-BS throughout, with advice to buy hash-brown patties from a fast-food joint for his McCaviar bites (topped with anchovy crème fraîche and fish roe) and to load up on store-bought ingredients, be they pork rinds, tostadas, or chicken-flavor soup base. Adventurous home cooks should give the hogshead cheese recipe a go (it’s a two-day affair, and pro tip: put the head into the stockpot snout-side up), and the less adventure-inclined can take a run at the “Shrettuce” recipe for thinly shredded lettuce. The recipes are blazing and the tone delightfully profane, making this perfect for anyone ready to check their pretensions and get a little messy. (June)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

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The Red Truck Bakery Farmhouse Cookbook: Sweet and Savory Comfort Food from America’s Favorite Rural Bakery

Brian Noyes. Clarkson Potter, $28 (224p) ISBN 978-0-593-23481-5

Noyes (The Red Truck Bakery Cookbook), owner of the Virginia bakery that gives his book its name, returns with a delectable odyssey through the flavors of the South. When the author, a California native who spent childhood summers with his North Carolinian grandmother, left publishing to pursue his passion for baking, he took to heart her credo that “cooking was about creating comfort, not just feeding people” and showcases that sentiment with recipes inspired by his love of the region’s bounty and rich culinary history. Alongside lush photographs of Virginia’s verdant countryside are dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner: among the standouts are an amped-up version of a Southern standard—“Gussied-Up” hush puppies with country ham and pepper jelly—and an excellent marrying of two Southern favorites in fried green tomato sandwiches with pimento cheese. Vegetarians will devour the “Beetloaf” sandwiches on whole wheat focaccia, a “meatless but meaty” spin on the classic, and a customer favorite. Dessert fiends, meanwhile, won’t be left wanting by the hearty sampling of sweets, including an innovative vegan and gluten-free coffee cake that Noyes developed with Virginia’s first lady through email exchanges during the pandemic. A lively tools and tips section, and vivid instructional photos, round out Noyes’s dazzling volume. This is a must-have for lovers of Southern cooking. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Flour Power: The Practice and Pursuit of Baking Sourdough Bread

Tara Jensen. Clarkson Potter, $35 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-23246-0

“Think of grain as fresh produce,”urges baker Jensen in this thorough and thoroughly delightful guide to baking sourdough, rye, and whole grain loaves. Developing and maintaining a worthy sourdough starter can be a chore, but Jensen (A Baker’s Year) guides readers through percentages and seasonal conditions with patience and good cheer. The novel way each recipe is introduced—method for refreshing the starter, yield and pan size, dough temperature, and skill level—is a small revelation in itself, beginning with the half whole wheat, half white flour loaf she dubs workweek bread and working up to a stunning cardamom bun bread. Even seasoned home bread makers will be surprised by a Flemish-style starter called desem (pronounced “DAY-zum”), which starts with a ball of moistened whole wheat flour buried in a container of dry flour and results in intensely “wheaty-tasting” pitas, stuffed parathas, and cinnamon-raisin loaves. Perhaps the most enriching information she imparts is the breadth of options for using those inevitable amounts of sourdough discard left over from refreshing a sourdough starter, among them coffee cake, pie and tart doughs, and sorghum graham crackers. With a fresh perspective and assured hand, Jensen offers no shortage of excellent ways to tackle the art of good bread making at home. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

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The Modern Gardener

Francis Tophill. Kyle, $26.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-85783-943-5

Gardening is “a place for productivity and reducing our personal impact on the world’s resources,” according to this pleasant outing from British horticulturalist Tophill (Rewild Your Garden). She begins with a convincing argument for building a varied and rich garden that provides “abundant food for a huge variety of species” including frogs and birds. Indeed, readers will find suggestions for “eco-friendly gardening” including a “right plant, right place system” for choosing crops that, after a year or two, will “need little or no intervention,” and a basic primer on plant categories. Tophill digs into houseplants (and gives tips for where to put them), flower gardening (guiding readers through making their own arrangements), plant dyes, and herb gardening, sharing as well recipes that put them to use including an elderflower cordial and blackcurrant vodka. Some of the plant recommendations may be unfamiliar to American readers (“good King Henry” spinach and Jostaberry, for example), but if the book’s stunning photography doesn’t capture readers, its no-nonsense approach to eco-friendly gardening will: “This is about... relaxing, balancing our needs with environmental concerns, and gardening in a time frame that suits us.” This one’s full of fun ideas. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Creating a Garden Retreat: An Artist’s Guide to Planting an Outdoor Sanctuary

Virginia Johnson. Artisan, $24.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-64829-002-2

Textile designer and “accidental gardener” Johnson (Travels Through the French Riviera) recounts how she transformed her “wild and uncared for” garden into an urban oasis in this charming scrapbook. Her approach is refreshingly low key: “If you make a mistake, you can fix it,” she encourages. Describing herself as “too impatient” to start from seeds, Johnson skips the parts of gardening that don’t interest her to focus on the part that does: the aesthetics. She finds inspiration in Matisse’s and O’Keeffe’s gardens, and covers gathering materials (ordering bare root plants for the first time, she was shocked by the tiny box of shriveled-looking roots that arrived), and creating swatch boards of blooms by month. She spills about her fair share of mistakes: first watering too little, then fostering a fungal disease by spraying a plant’s leaves rather than the roots, and planting ivy she intends to cover an unsightly wall incorrectly so that it grows in the wrong direction. While her approach may be a bit too laissez-faire for some, Johnson’s irreverent sensibility will take the intimidation out of the game for those looking to have fun. New gardeners big on imagination will find Johnson’s encouragement just what they need to get out in the dirt. (May)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Wellness for Makers: A Movement Guide for Artists

Missy Graff Ballone. Schiffer, $22.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-7643-6321-4

“I have met too many artists who are willing to accept that they are likely to develop chronic pain and injury as a result of their studio practice,” writes Ballone, an artist and massage therapist, in her encouraging debut, a guide to creating “more-healthful” habits. A brief overview of why regular movement is so important gives way to a look at ideal standing and sitting postures: when upright, avoid hunching or tilting the pelvis forward. And since “it can be more physically challenging to keep an upright posture while sitting than standing,” it’s important to keep one’s head, shoulders, and hips vertically aligned when in a chair. A chapter on common craft-related misalignments will be especially of interest to working artists: potters should be sure to focus on keeping their wrists in neutral positions, while artists who do lots of “pinching and gripping” would do well to engage in hand strengthening exercises. “Movement breaks” with tasks and exercises appear throughout and include setting a timer to change up positions every 20 minutes, and daily worksheets will help readers note their habits. None of the stretches, exercises, or postures are complicated—it’s pretty simple stuff, and Ballone’s tips serve as a great reminder to switch things up. Achy artists will find this a boon. (June)

Reviewed on 05/13/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Feeding Women of the Talmud, Feeding Ourselves: Uplifting the Voices of Talmudic Heroines and Honoring Them with Simple, Vegan Recipes

Kenden Alfond. Turner, $37.99 (382p) ISBN 978-1-68442-700-0

In this enlightening if dense work, Alfond, founder of the Jewish Food Hero cooking blog, pays homage to 69 women from the Talmud, a book of ancient teachings on Jewish law and tradition, with a diverse collection of mostly vegan recipes. Gathered from 129 Jewish women from around the globe, dishes run the gamut from Persian eggplants in walnut sauce to corn latkes with mango salsa. Unfortunately, the multitude of voices feels dizzying. Each chapter features the Talmudic story of a woman, commentary, discussion questions, and a recipe inspired by the story that proceeded it. Questions that follow the story of Bruriah, a second-century CE scholar, for example, invite reflection on gender discrimination, while the accompanying recipe for sourdough focaccia features an “acidity... reminiscent of Bruriah’s struggle.” A variation on millionaire’s shortbread, made with maple syrup and dried figs, is served alongside the story of Bat Abba Surah, whose father arranged for her financial independence after marriage. Several recipes are touted as medicinal: One herbal tea is offered to replenish the nutrients lost after a miscarriage, while a recipe inspired by the story of Likhlukhit—whose husband tried to leave her because of her ugliness—offers a “non-edible skin cleanser and hair rinse” that “would have helped Likhlukhit[’s]... straw-like hair.” Though well-meaning, this is unlikely to appeal outside of the observant Jewish community. (June)

Reviewed on 05/13/2022 | Details & Permalink

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