Book Review: Simple Food for the Good Life

12 Oct

Simple Food for the Good LifeSimple Food for the Good Life by Helen Nearing

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the blogs I follow (can’t remember which one – sorry!) recently mentioned this book by famous homesteader Helen Nearing, so I decided to check it out. It arrived quickly on interlibrary loan from a mystery library abbreviated AMO (Amarillo is my guess), and I perused it even faster.

Nearing claims not to cook, so what follows, she reasons, is not really a cookbook. In a sense, it’s true. The chapters do not contain recipes so much as methods or ideas for using certain ingredients. Each dish is incredibly simple, as the title claims, containing a short list of items and nearly effortless instructions. As a result, I would recommend this book for brand-new cooks, people with little time, or new vegetarians. For me, it was almost useless. I already know how to sauté veggies or soak grains.

However, what saved it, for me, was Nearing’s amusing tone and outlook. She is very matter-of-fact and learned, which gives the book a better flow than most traditional cookbooks. She espouses a diet of “hearty, harmless food” (p. 8) and hopes to reach “those frugal, abstemious folk who eat to nourish their bodies and leave self-indulgent delicacies to the gourmets.” What you see is what you get here.

Though this isn’t entirely my style of eating, I respect her efforts and her honesty. However, one thing bothered me: she claims to “drink no milk” and then qualifies that claim with all the dairy she does consume (yogurt, cottage cheese, occasional yogurt), all of which are milk-based. She also includes many recipes containing butter. The inconsistency, following on a very finger-wagging tirade against eating flesh, was a bit hypocritical.

Nonetheless, the book is a quick, easy read, and though it won’t win any awards for innovation, I appreciated her views on eating.

My rating: *** (out of *****)

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