What happens when a classically-trained New York chef and fearless omnivore heads out of the city and into the wild to track down the ingredients for her meals? After abandoning Wall Street to embrace her lifelong love of cooking, Georgia Pellegrini comes face to face with her first kill. Realizing that the only way we truly know where our meat comes from is if we hunt it ourselves, Pellegrini embarks on a wild ride into the real world of local, organic, and sustainable food in Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time.

Teaming up with veteran hunters, she trav­els over field and stream in search of the main course-from quail to venison and wild boar, from elk to javelina and squirrel. Pellegrini’s road trip careens from the back of an ATV chasing wild hogs along the banks of the Mississippi to a dove hunt with beer and barbeque, to the birthplace of the Delta Blues. 

More than a hunting narrative, Girl Hunter also teaches you how to be a self-sufficient eater. Each chapter offers recipes for finger-licking dishes like: wild turkey and oyster stew stuffed quail pheasant tagine venison sausage, fundamental stocks, brines, sauces, and rubs suggestions for interchanging proteins within each recipe Each dish, like each story, is an adventure from begin­ning to end.  An inspiring, illuminating, and often funny jour­ney into unexplored territories of haute cuisine , Girl Hunter captures the joy of rolling up your sleeves and getting to the heart of where the food you eat comes from. (description from publisher)

Peter Mayle and his wife buy an old stone house in the Luberon – a relatively remote and mountainous area of southern France.  A Year in Provence is the monthly chronicle of their renovation of the farmhouse. They suffer through the trials of home destruction and construction, all the while baffled by the Provencal dialect.

In the process, they come to know their neighbors (farmers, restaurateurs, craftsmen) and the regional cuisine. Mayle is an enthusiastic consumer of food and drink, and devotes large portions of the book to memorable lunches, restaurants and holidays. The best way to read this book is while eating something decadent – Mayle is not one to worry about calories. He joins wholeheartedly in the local passions for mushrooms, wild game and the powerful, locally-made brandy.

Mayle was one of the first to write this type of foreigner-buying-a-rundown-property-and-discovering-the-simple-things-life memoir. He stands out as well for his humor and sense of the ridiculous, not taking himself or anyone else too seriously.

We’ve been hearing a lot of buzzwords these days regarding food – “organic”, “local”, “green”, “locavore”, “natural”, “ecological”, “environmentally friendly”, “free range”. Putting all of those concepts and philosophies into practice though – that’s another story, one that seems nearly impossible. However, Growing a Garden City by Jeremy Smith will show you that not only is eating healthy possible, you can also make a difference in your part of the world while you’re at it.

Growing a Garden City follows the community based garden project called Garden City Harvest located in Missoula, Montana, from its modest beginnings to a growing program that not only touches many aspects of the community, it serves as a source of pride. The range of projects and people they’ve assisted is astonishing. They include schoolchildren who visit the farm, troubled teens given a sense of purpose by working on the farm, local university students getting hands-on experience and the homeless and hungry who now have a wide variety of fresh, healthy produce (a rarity in many food banks). The community as a whole is encouraged to participate in the many classes, field trips, summer camps and other education programs as well as the garden plots available for individuals to rent. There are public events throughout the year which include concerts, picnics, lectures and readings making this a truly community-wide program.

Beautifully illustrated, full of practical ideas and inspiring stories, Growing a Garden City will not only show you how it can be done, it gives you hope for the future.

Much more than a collection of recipes (although a fine selection is included), Edible: a Celebration of Local Foods is just as much a love letter to the farmers, ranchers, fishers and cooks that produce and create with the bounty found in this country (and southern Canada). If this book doesn’t send you straight to the Farmer’s Market (or your own backyard garden), nothing will.

Divided into six regions (Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, California and the West, Pacific Northwest and Midwest) Edible starts with a series of thoughtful, often humorous, always enlightening articles and essays about the difficulties and rewards of producing local, organic sustainable food. Farmers, chefs and organizations are highlighted for each region including a listing at the end of each chapter of things that are unique to that area (Muscatine melons for Iowa for instance, or razor clams in Seattle) that make this worth checking out before your next road trip.

Here are a few belt-tightening culinary tips from the new book The Cheapskate Next Door by Jeff Yeager:

-Order only tap water with your meal when you go out to eat. Beverages are typically marked up 300 to 600 percent. Ordering water only will save you about $800 a year.

-Put box-wine into premium label bottles and no one will know the difference. Check AccidentalWine.com for for up to a 40% discount on premium bottles with cosmetic packaging imperfections.

-If you use a crock-pot once a week for eight hours, it will only use 30 cents of electricity a month, making cheap, tough cuts of meat fork-tender.

-Choose to host brunch, giving everyone their own quart-size ziplock bag and a serving tray of tasteful omelet ingredients.  Add a couple of eggs and boil all for fourteen minutes for perfect custom omelets, saving you $100 over a sit down dinner.

CouponMom.com proposes “cutting your grocery bill in half” with downloadable coupons and a state-by-state grocery coupon database. Owner Stephanie Nelson estimates her regular site users save $2,000 per year.

I’m convinced George Motz’s cross country quest to find the best burgers in America in his book/documentary Hamburger America makes him quite possibly one of the greatest human beings ever to eventually get a stern lecture from a physician.

In the film, all the focused-upon restaurants have been in business for a minimum of forty years.  You’ll find consistencies across that resonate with even the most ardent of sprout munchers.  The burger is obviously the star, but the supporting actors steal the show for me, i.e. the 50s-era neon signs, polished chrome stools, and the American Gothic-esque couples standing proudly in front of their mom and pop lunch counters where the size is “one” and the portion is whatever granny pats out.

These are truly the heartiest scrub-tree rugged organizations in their ability to eke out a living and a superior product in the flattened American fast food landscape.

You’ll see the regionally familiar Billy Goat Tavern (Chicago) and Hamburger Inn #2 (Iowa City) and wonder if there will ever come an occasion to visit places like Stella’s Hamburgers in Bellevue, Nebraska.

It’s a brutal book to skim at 11:30am.

It’s almost here – the non-stop food fest that we call “the Holiday Season”! The next six weeks, from Thanksgiving to New Years will be filled with eating opportunities galore. In any culture, sharing food – especially homemade food – brings together families, friends and communities, creating bonds that last. Putting together all of that food can be a lot of work though, so this week the Info Cafe blog is going to focus on some of the new cookbooks that are now available. Be sure to stop by the library and check out a copy!

newthanksgivingtableThanksgiving, a holiday celebrating the harvest, is all about food – there’s no pressure to find the perfect present or outdo the neighbors with your light display. It’s also maybe the most traditional – almost everyone automatically thinks of turkey when they think of Thanksgiving. It’s how you fix the turkey and your choice of side dishes where family traditions take over.

If you’re looking for something different, or if this is your first year hosting the big event, take a look at The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan with it’s traditional yet fresh approach to the meal. There is a nice variety of choices listed for the basics – turkey, stuffing, gravy, vegetables, deserts – with some interesting twists included. How about Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting instead of the ubiquitous  pumpkin pie? Or shake things up with Molly’s Pumpkin-and-Sage Lasagna.

Two chapters make this book a stand-out – “Regional Thanksgiving Menus with Timetables” that will help any cook plan for the big day, and “Leftover Favorites” which lists several tasty ways to deal with leftovers that go beyond the turkey sandwich.

And don’t despair if you can’t get ahold of this book in time for Thanksgiving – the autumn themed recipes will be just as delicious at Christmas or New Years, or any wintertime family gathering.

School of essential ingredientsIn today’s fast food world full of instant puddings and potatoes, it is refreshing to read a book featuring real food. But The School of Essential Ingredients also features real people.  Each chapter focuses on a different student in Lillian’s cooking class, revealing not only their own particular foibles and dilemmas, but also how they each contribute something satisfying and indelible to the mix. There’s Claire, a mother struggling with the demands of her young children; Tom, a young widower still grieving over the loss of his wife to breast cancer, and Isabelle, an elderly woman tentatively dealing with the confusion of memory loss, to name but a few.

The book is satisfying on many levels. First, it just made me want to bake something — at times it seemed I could almost smell what they were cooking, even though my kitchen was very vacant.  Then, I got nostalgic, remembering favorite dishes from my childhood, and relishing how food often brought family together.  Finally, in a very subtle way, I witnessed the characters forming lasting relationships with each other and realized what a difference one person can make in another’s life.

In this first novel (but third book) by Erica Bauermeister, it’s obvious that she has a “love of slow food and slow life instilled by her two years living in northern Italy.” She’s whipped up a delightful, delicious dessert of a book.

Julie and JuliaThe long anticipated movie Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, opens today and whatever the reviews, it’s sure to be filled with beautiful food. Based on the book Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, it follows the cooking adventures of a young woman who, in an attempt to bring some focus to her life, decides to make every recipe in Julia Child’s iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking – in one year and all in her tiny kitchen.

This isn’t the first time food has been the centerpiece of a film. Take a look at these entries for more mouthwatering fun:

Big Night – An Italian restaurant on the brink of closing pulls out all the stops in one last attempt to keep the kitchen running.

Babette’s Feast – An unexpected windfall allows Babette to create a once-in-a-lifetime banquet for her longtime benefactors, a pious religious group that deny earthly pleasure.

Chocolat – When a mysterious single mother moves into a small French village and opens a chocolate shop, magic and controversy soon follow.

Sideways – Two best friends spend a week touring the California wine country, discovering passion, exploring their failures and searching for the perfect wine.

Like Water for Chocolate – In this romantic fantasy a couple is denied the chance to marry. To be near her, the young man marries her sister and she expresses her passion for him through her cooking.

home-powerWhat’s cool about magazines is that they teach you how to do really useful and practical things, but in a painless and fun way. The Main Street  library has two new titles that do just that.

Food Network Magazine is chuck full of recipes: check out the best burger in each state with Bobby Flay (in Iowa it’s the Famous Garbage Burger in Ames), peruse the recipes for “50 Summer Drinks,” and plan a Father’s Day cookout.

Learn how to save energy by browsing through Home Power Magazine. Recent articles tell you how to buy a wind generator, smarter power strips, energy saving digital TV converter boxes and investing in solar electricity.