Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review - My Organic Life

My Organic Life: How a Pioneering Chef Helped Shape the Way We Eat Today

By: Nora Pouillon
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 978-0385350754
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2, 2015

One would think that the recipe for a memoir would include little vignettes, or large ones if you prefer, of the motley crew of people surrounding the author. I was perplexed with Nora Pouillon's choice to disregard the usual formulaic structure of the memoir. Yes, I learned of her life on the farm in Tyrol and her seemingly idyllic upbringing. We learn about her future husband, Pierre, and her children, Alexis and Oliver. Then, much later, there is Steven and their two daughters. What of them? Not much.

I fully expected a Von Trappish tale of how her family totally influenced her thought processes and her choice to create a most unusual restaurant. I'm sure they did, but I can't hide my disappointment that this book didn't read like Julia Child's biography Appetite for Life, which was criticized by some as being much too detailed. Blow by blow with boring detail is my cup of tea. At least give me a taste of Julie and Julia. It simply wasn't on the proverbial plate nor was it going to be.

I set the book aside for a week or two to think about why Nora Pouillon was a rule breaker. The more I thought about it, it dawned on me that her intent was not to discuss her personal life, but rather to present a discussion about food. It was all about food and beyond. It was about that beef tartare, the boiled chicken, and that forty-year journey in search of organic food. It was about not only certifying organic food, but verifying an actual restaurant. Now how does one go about doing that, for heaven's sake? If you choose to forgo the juicy tidbits of her personal life, you'll find out why and how.

Nora's father once said, "Health is the most important thing you have in your life, and you must take care of it. No money in the world can buy it for you." A man before his time, but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and Nora followed in his footsteps in her attempt to not only satisfy the palate, but do so in a most satisfying manner. There were the illegal attempts to obtain hormone-free beef, using seasonal foods efficiently, the unhappy restaurant clientele who weren't much for change.

It's all there, but it's not what most may think it's going to be, particularly if you want juicy, head for the supermarket tabloids. If you want to know about a pioneering woman, think about Nora and her love affair with food. If you "do" organic, this one is for you. If you want to know about the disastrous consequences of not paying attention to what we have eaten and those who have paid the price of feeding us, perhaps you should read Dale Finley Slongwhite's Fed Up: The High Costs of Cheap Food as well.

Quill says: Was Nora's memoir good? If you think about it as a memoir about the journey of how we eat, yes it was. Perhaps even amazing.

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