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Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods
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Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  510 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
Issuing a "profound and engaging...passionate call to us to re-think our food industry" (Jim Harrison, author of The Raw and the Cooked), Gary Paul Nabhan reminds us that eating close to home is not just a matter of convenience—it is an act of deep cultural and environmental significance. Embodying "a once ecological, economic, humanistic, and spiritual" ( ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2001)
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Food-Related Non-Fiction
148th out of 731 books — 1,362 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,608)
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Jan 17, 2011 Laura rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
Can I give this zero stars? This was a terrible book. Do NOT bother with it. It was assigned reading by my professor, and I actually had hoped it would be a great inspirational message. Halfway through it, I looked up reviews online and the words that kept popping up were "godawful" and "disappointing."

This is a book about sustainable, local food driving local communities. It is obvious that the author is passionate about food safety and heritage. Yet the writing is dull, monotonous, and lifele
May 28, 2012 Kathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking-tasting
A thought provoking book indeed. Disclaimer, I'm a vegetarian, so the sequences about slaughter of nicely raised critters just provoked in my mind "really, you don't need to do that!". But fascinating details about the food plants of the Sonora desert region with passionate meanderings about the WTO, GMO, and so on. The author comes across as something of a fanatic prig, and I imagine I would not care to spend much time in his presence, but the book is worth reading and thinking about. It's 10 y ...more
Jul 28, 2011 Andrewdashgillman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the pacing is sometimes uneven, Gary Paul Nabhan always seems to gain momentum as he nears the end of a chapter propelling me through the text. His moral seems to crystalize in those moments, reinforcing the message not always made explicit by his local musings and wanderings (though the point is clear). Consider the concluding thoughts of “The Fertile Months,” his treatise on summer. Nabhan is never just tending to his garden in the name of his grand experiment, the central device driving ...more
Sep 04, 2014 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This is the first of Nabhan's books that I've read, and it was exactly what I had hoped for. His writing style is lyrical, occasionally to the point of engendering slight discomfort in someone obviously too used to ironic, "meta" writing styles.

Nabhan writes of his initially-yearlong exploration of what it means to eat locally, starting with the admittedly-arbitrary "rules" (subject to change) of a 250-mile boundary around his house and the attempt to make four out of every five meals with foods
Nov 19, 2010 Liz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Michael Pollan's work is much better. This book was at times too preachy and at others hard to follow; what was up with the bad Jamaican "quote" from the cab driver in DC? Plus I was left wondering why the book started with a trip to Lebanon when that trip and even the author's heritage played virtually no role at all in the book. It seems like this guy has done some good things - I will get my seeds from Seed Savers from now on - but it gets lost in his writing style.
Feb 08, 2009 Julia rated it liked it
Shelves: green, nonfiction
Personal narrative from a seed-saver and expert on the native foods of the Southwest. Nabhan has a spiritual - not particularly ecological, or even logical - devotion to local food. It's exciting to read about his adventures uncovering native desert foods, but I was a bit put off by the way he fetishizes everything native (he's not native to the area himself). He gets lost on tangents about issues about which he knows very little, like medicine and economics.
Jun 10, 2014 Tessa rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfic
I learned about this book in a review of a similar book (Babs Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). The reviewer said that this was less kvetchy and more authentic b/c Nabhan has a real challenge in feeding himself locally, being located in the desert, whereas Kingsolver was situated in lush Virginia. And, I believe, this is one of the first of its kind of slow food memoirs.

I think they're pretty similar. I enjoyed both. Nabhan is an earnest idealistic local food evangelist. He knows he's an
Feb 10, 2015 Pat rated it really liked it
Thank you Felicia! I would have missed this book if not for your gift. Dr. Habhan is an ethnobotanist, research scientist, essayist and founder/facilitator of Renewing America's Food Traditions initiative. In a very personal manner he promotes eating local foods (within 220 miles) and chronicles his challenges to live that promotion in his Arizona setting examining and sampling the historic foods of the area by connecting with the local natives in and out of the USA. Part science and history les ...more
C- I was really excited to read another book about eating locally, but the writing I thought was rather boring, too many tangents. Read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" or "Plenty" if you want to read about eating and/or growing locally.
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
I usually love these types books but this one just bit the dust..I couldn't even finish it
Mousy Brown
Apr 19, 2015 Mousy Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, it was thought provoking, informative and well written. The author is fairly extreme in his beliefs and practices and I know I will never live a life where I forage and kill all my own food but he has certainly inspired me to think a great deal more about where my food comes from and how its production impacts on others and the planet. I must say I find it fairly depressing to read about the destruction of land and sea that large scale agribusinesses commit on a daily ...more
Sep 26, 2009 Emily rated it liked it
This was a pleasant book, but not necessarily memorable. Actually, to be honest, I was flaming mad at the end of the book. The book dawdled along until the last 10 pages when the author casually mentioned that he went on a several hundred mile pilgrimage walk across the Mexican desert with some Native Americans and they only ate native food that they found, hunted, or was laying on the road squished by cars. Why did that make me mad? Because THAT experience is what the book should have been abou ...more
Aug 07, 2009 Richard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Coming Home to Eat is a wonderfully well written and engaging book by Gary Nabhan, who attempts to eat food within 250 mile radius of his home in Arizona. He even asks his friends to join him in his endeavour. Gary tries to eat food that is grown, forage or hunt (roadkill is OK) or fished within 250 miles. I find Gary Nabhan's book to be more than about eating locally, but almost a spiritual journey in regards to the author's surrounding.

He emphasizes that food is more than about eating or even
Aug 08, 2009 Dennis rated it it was amazing
This well-written book that is fun to read has led me to feeling more connected to where I live more than anything else. Because I am now consciously eating as much locally as l can, I think about the land around me. Are we keeping it healthy so that it can keep us healthy? What does it taste like?

A must-read book, if you will let it seep into you and shape your actions.

"No wonder that some of those who survived the depression and the Dust Bowl later indulged themselves in conspicuous consumpti
Dec 12, 2007 Ana rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in local foods or the American Southwest
Shelves: foodie
I had a very mixed reaction to this book. I was not impressed with the writing in the beginning-- it was stilted and awkward. But, by a third or so into the book it improved. I think that Nabhan's strong point is his immense knowledge of ecology and biology. Once he started focusing on what he knows well-- the effects of Bt and GMO corn on Monarch butterflies and other rare butterfly populations and other environmental issues of a similar nature-- the book improved. But, I have to admit that if ...more
Nancy Noyes-ward
Feb 22, 2014 Nancy Noyes-ward rated it really liked it
I had read research articles and excerpts by the author previous to being loaned the book. I like that it is factual. So many books on the subject skirt the facts while romanticizing a "back to the land lifestyle". It isn't romantic, but it is satisfying and sustaining to live the way I was raised, growing and harvesting your own food.
Aug 23, 2014 Deepak rated it really liked it
Great book that follows one man's journey of focusing on local eating for a year while exploring the myriad of issues that stem from the globalization of the food system. I bought this book 10 years ago and finally got around to reading it today and everything he has to say is still perfectly and sadly valid.
Jan 08, 2015 yitzy rated it really liked it
way better than any of the other contemporary food books. a feels boat, not preachy. also nabhan knows about science, so that helps. made me curious + deepened my love for this desert.
Oct 01, 2014 David rated it really liked it
I loved the lyrical writing ... the connection between native culture degradation and political decisions made in Washington, London, New York ... a Whitmanian effort that reminds us that the same issues we were fighting during those heady days of the WTO Battle in Seattle still rage on.
I was initially optimistic about this book but, while it was a good read, it wasn't as great as I had thought. Nabhan brings a unique perspective to the local food movement both because of his background as an agricultural scientist and because he writes from the American Southwest, an area which doesn't appear in these monographs quite as other areas of the country. Coming Home to Eat is a story both of a dying way of eating and disappearing traditional communities. It is most definitely food f ...more
Bleh. Yet another person's experience eating locally for one year, but this time the author is an ethnobotanist and folklorist living in Arizona. He's also a horrible writer. He has a unique point of view, though. Unlike other localvores, he doesn't try to make his own cheese or grow all of his own foods. He just, for example, finds some bugs or some plants and thinks: is this edible? what native person can show me how to prepare it so I may eat it? He has no problem preparing roadkill or huntin ...more
Mar 24, 2008 Gloria rated it liked it
This pre-dates the more current attempts to describe eating locally (the 100 mile diet, Kingsolver's book, for examples), and with it, provides what I think is a more accurate description of the real challenges of geography--- something that many of us would-be healthy, thoughtful eaters happily? overlook. Geography plays a huge part in what can be grown, what can be eaten, if one is applying the local rule. And I think that people need to be honest about the trade-offs that each individual are ...more
Jul 30, 2009 Lauren rated it did not like it
Shelves: food, bios-memoirs
Having read several books on local foods and sustainability, I really wanted to love this book. I wanted to read about this man's year of eating local in the southwest US. However, I found the book just about as dry as the soil in the Arizona, where the book takes place... his writing style did not engage me at all. It did not make me want to continue turning the pages. Perhaps it is because I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life right before this? It had great potential... but i ...more
Jill Lucht
Feb 23, 2013 Jill Lucht rated it liked it
This book started with a highly pretentious tone, but it won me over in the end. I never got over the author's sense of privilege, especially regarding his commentary on people's, especially women's, appearance throughout the book. But he name dropped my friend and mentor Jack Kloppenburg, so I committed to finishing the book. I must keep in mind that this is an older book, and tremendous progress has taken place in the local foods movement since he wrote it. At the time, his thoughts were proba ...more
Jul 01, 2009 Jessie rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I picked up this book from the library because I like books about food and I'm interested in the idea of eating more local and fresh foods. The book certainly covered those areas, but I still didn't enjoy it as much as similar books that I've read. The author is obviously a scientist and not a writer, and so the quality of writing was really uneven. In the end I thought some parts were interesting, but the book as a whole just didn't do much to convince me of anything.
Sep 28, 2015 Josie rated it liked it
Rather frustrating to find that issues the author was raising in 2002 still are unresolved today. The local food movement is not a new thing, and GMO issues have been with us for more than a decade, the rise of diabetes and its ties to processed food. Why has nothing substantial been done to address the environmental impact of these experiments. Grumble.

The book was interesting and readable, but sometimes meandered into issues that didn't interest me.
Jennifer Miera
Jul 03, 2008 Jennifer Miera rated it liked it
Shelves: farmers-market
I must admit that I stopped reading a chapter or two before the end - the point at which the author is gathering food in the desert and one of his companions breaks the legs of a lizard to immobilize it and sticks it underneath his belt to carry it home. Overall, I liked what the author was saying about eating locally, however the millions of people who now inhabit desert areas, like the author, cannot possibly forage for food sustainably.
Ben Williams
Mar 09, 2009 Ben Williams rated it really liked it
Gary is a local-foods icon of sorts in Arizona and the Southwest. He is an avid writer and wrote this book about living in the desert of Arizona (near Tucson). He definitely captures the romance, mystery, and pleasure of cooking, eating, and sharing food locally. His writings left me with a pleasant, excited feeling: ready to learn what foods my place has to offer, how to prepare them, and what traditions historically accompanied them.
Nov 04, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it
Nabhan set out to each 4 of 5 of his meals from sources within 250 miles of his house for a year 5 years before the book 100 Mile Diet was published and became a hit. As an ethnobotanist and long-time seed saver, he focuses a lot on harvesting traditional food plants and tries to eat primarily foods that are native to the region around his home. Such an interesting read from an interesting scholar - I loved this book.
Apr 14, 2008 Melanie rated it it was ok
This book really makes one think about where our food comes from and what impacts food production and shipping have on everything from our own psyche to the environment. The prose is a bit undisciplined and "all over the place", but the author brings up some salient points about the pleasures and benefits of at least making an effort to derive our food from more local sources (like our gardens!).
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Gary Paul Nabhan is an internationally-celebrated nature writer, seed saver, conservation biologist and sustainable agriculture activist who has been called "the father of the local food movement" by Utne Reader, Mother Earth News, Carleton College and Unity College. Gary is also an orchard-keeper, wild forager and Ecumenical Franciscan brother in his hometown of Patagonia, Arizona near the Mexica ...more
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