Brian's Reviews > The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally

The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather
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's review
Jul 25, 2011

really liked it

This is a collection of essays, practically journal entries addressed to the the reader that outline though food the author's life on the shores of Stewart Lake in western Michigan. She describes her experience living on a shallow budget, though it seems to me that she manages more through the grace of generous friends and neighbors than through any great skill of her own. What skill we see is her prodigious culinary abilities, shared with her friends and neighbors as a bartered good. The book is arranged into seasons, and following each entry is a collection of recipes alluded to in the essay.
The prose is clear and artfully written in a precise, almost prim tone that flows easily off the page. I would have appreciated the addition of some grit and struggle, seeing the author win through truly difficult trials. I suspect though that including those would've given vent to anger and frustration at the scenarios which led to her lakeside life, putting a whiny tone into the work. As it is, the book is calm , not quite detached, focusing on the positive aspects of living lightly in a communal way. A good, quick read that I'd recommend.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Katie I thought the kindness of her neighbors was part of the bartering she mentions in the subtitle; that you live in a community by sharing your skills and bounty. Her skills were cooking and knitting, etc.

Brian Thanks for the comment. You're right, the cooking and knitting are what she's referring to in the subtitle. My objection is that there isn't sufficient emphasis placed on the bartering to justify putting it in the subtitle, and that what she bartered away doesn't seem equal in value to what she received. A few good meals, some jam, and a hat for a winter's worth of firewood, the installation of a stove, and a garden share? Perhaps I've misremembered something, but even so, unless she did more than she tells us, she got a lot more than she gave.

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