Book Reviews

Book Review by Midwest Book Review

 At first glance, Eat Mesquite and More: A Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods and Living might seem a specialty cookbook for desert-residing readers only; but while its focus is specific to Sonoran Desert wild food usage, cooks, gardeners and landscapers, and urban designers alike will find much to relish about a cookbook that focuses on cultivating desert foods.

For one thing, it’s loaded not only with new foods and flavors, but stories of the individuals and organizations fostering their cultivation and usage. This means that growing, harvesting, processing, and pairing flavors adds to what is more than a ‘wild foods’ or regional cookbook in a seasonal arrangement made all the more intriguing by its chapter separation by ‘wet’ versus ‘dry’ seasonal offerings.

Secondly, it comes with a manifesto that promotes sensitivity to ecological systems and natural land processes; and this means a gardening and farming approach to these foods that results in as little impact to ecological systems as possible, from purposely ‘planting rain’ and capturing runoff and rain to not just looking for wild food sources, but replanting and replenishing them after harvest.

A cautionary note to this collection is that the majority of its readers will have never heard of such ingredients as mesquite, wild fruits, or cholla cactus buds; while a secondary note is that accessibility may be an issue for those far from this American Southwest region of bounty.

But it should also be mentioned that Eat Mesquite and More emphasizes its approach in its title, offering far more than a cookbook based on sometimes-inaccessible ingredients. It’s actually a manifesto for trying new things, accepting new flavors, and above all, honing new approaches to gathering and using food from the land.

The recipes are a pleasing adjunct to such an approach, with creations such as Hackberry Milk, Prickly Pear Syrup & Jelly for pancakes, or Saguaro Seed Porridge with cholla seed buds adding a wealth of new things to try (over 170 recipes presented and gathered by desert dwellers on a mission to discuss desert food and its unique attributes).

Culinary, Southwest regional collections, and anyone interested in wild foods and land management will find the colorful Eat Mesquite and More a unique and exciting contribution to the literature of both wild food usage and ecological approaches to fragile land ecological management.

– D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review