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

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  603 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Since Coming Home to Eat was first published in 2001, the local food movement has exploded, and more people than ever are "going green" in an effort to lead healthier, more eco-friendly lives. Gary Nabhan’s year-long mission to eat only foods grown, fished, or gathered within 220 miles of his Arizona home offers striking and timely insights into our evolving relationship ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published July 6th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2001)
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Jan 10, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 03, 2011 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
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 09, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Nov 19, 2010 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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Jun 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feisty Harriet
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food-industry
I love the idea of eating local, however Gary Paul Nabhan takes his year of local-eating to an extreme that I just couldn't identify with. He lives in Arizona (Yay! Like me! Maybe I can get some tips!) and decides that "local" means "native to 100 miles around my home." Not cultivated, but NATIVE. Ok, so, this means he spends his year eating cactus flowers and weedy greens he picks from public lands and--literally--roadkill. He does also grow a garden full of plants that are native to the ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars. Two because yeah, it was okay, but the extra half star because it was better than I thought it would be. I was ambivalent at the beginning, wanting to read it based on recommendations and the subject matter, but with a niggling not-quite-memory of reading some Nabhan before and not liking it (before my Goodreads days of keeping track of these things).

Overall, it reminded me of conversations with some of my relatives: there are subjects they're quite knowledgeable about, they like to
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I glanced at some of the negative reviews of this book on goodreads, but based on the excerpt that I read in the American Food Writing anthology, I felt I had to read it. My impulse wasn't wrong. In some ways, this book rivals Botany of Desire as the food book that has had the most profound impact on my soul.

Comparisons to Pollan are unfair; they're both creative nonfiction writers, but there's a big difference-- passion. Nabhan writes personally, and with passion rather than the cool distance
Nov 15, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mousy Brown
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
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 ...more
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 ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully-written homage to Sonoran Desert foods that all of us born & raised in the Sonoran Desert should read. Interspersed with thoughts and statistics about modern agriculture, ag politics, and the food industry, and sassy passages such as, “Just to ensure that all my nondairy product purchases were not soy based, I selected Rice Dream, an alternative to soy beverages, which were in turn an alternative to cow beverages like milk. Rice Dream came from Imagine Foods. I shook the ...more
Jill Lucht
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 ...more
Mar 24, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 05, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author works in the field of seed-saving, native plants, and regional, sustainable foods. Living in the southwest US, he is keenly aware of the desert foods historically eaten by the native people of that area, including those from cactus, which I had no idea even had edible parts! He makes a commitment to spend a year eating, as much as possible, only foods grown or fished within 200 miles of his home. The project inspires him to many kinds of research, especially uniting with native ...more
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 01, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jennifer Miera
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 14, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more