Eating Wildly

Eating Wildly . . .

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal by Ava Chin

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal by Ava Chin




Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal

By Ava Chin
Hardback, 245 pp.
Simon & Schuster, May 2014

When a writer writes about what she or he knows, the final product – the book – will be at its best if one part art and one part life glued together with a unique experience where the two have met.

Ava Chin, I am happy to report, has succeeded on all counts with her debut; an informative, personable, and innovative memoir released today, May 13, 2014, by Simon & Schuster:

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal

Ava’s botanical journalism has been mentioned several times here at Wildflowers of the West Village. She has returned the favor in kind in her “Urban Forager” column featured in the City Room section of The New York Times. Eating Wildly appropriates parts of that writing project, pairs it with an intimate, at times frank, personal history, one that has flowered into the fruit of a literary urban forger.

Family roots, grounded especially by supportive and culinary grandparents, allowed Ava to grow up as a New Yorker with a contemplative artist’s eye and a sophisticated, yet unpretentious, palate for wild and otherwise regionally-sourced food. This subject she knows, and combined here with her learned writer’s talent for rendering experience in words, the result is a savory read seasoned by some key, occasionally bittersweet, aspects of her own story.

The book begins with a walk, that activity so often entwined like a vine with outdoor exploration. And although she was alone in the living out of that particular autumn afternoon, her retelling guides you like a friend taking your hand and pointing out the details you might otherwise miss. Her specific quest for fresh lambs quarters (Chenopodium album) ended in her being foiled by the late season, yet she was rewarded with a different find earthier in flavor and perhaps even more precious: oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus).

From that poetic opening, graced by symbolism, the reader is introduced to a book structured in sections headed by the four seasons, each of which features a variety of urban plants in starring roles. Enter also the people who helped to shape the writer’s life: a conflicted, sometimes preoccupied mother; a distant, always itinerant father; a companion and kindred spirit who offers support in matters of love and letters.

There are also recipes from Ava’s kitchen that stand the test of taste. One example is Wood Sorrel Micro-Greens, a savory that can be harvested at its peak right now as her book greets the reading public.

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Ava was raised in Queens and now centers herself on Staten Island, where she teaches creative writing, but all five boroughs of New York City receive attention on these pages, making this book required reading for naturalists of all shades. A large part of Eating Wildly is dedicated to various edible fungi; mycologists will certainly find ample substance and complete author-reader connection. The life of the urban honeybee is also given its due. This book is a special document of the current state of the city’s wild reported from a gifted first-person perspective and should satisfy anyone interested in the power, beauty, or flavor of plants, those self-sufficient Wildflowers of the West Village that inspire ongoing communion with the green corners of the metropolis.

– rPs 05 13 2014

Postscript: Eating Wildly is available for sale at one of my favorite independents, The Corner Bookstore, located on the southeast corner of 93rd and Madison. Here is a link to the shop’s website: http://cornerbookstorenyc.com/event/ava-chin-reads-from-her-debut-eating-wildly/

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